Oplinger Signs With Cardinals; Graham, Tyler Get NFL Shots
ARLINGTON, Texas – Getting drafted by a National Football League team is quite an accomplishment when you consider there are only 7 rounds and most of the guys selected have proven themselves at the league combine. Foyesade Oluokun, Yale's All-Ivy linebacker, did not attend the NFL combine, but he impressed scouts around the league enough at pro days to be taken by the Atlanta Falcons this afternoon in the 6th round of the 2018 draft.
Oluokun, the 200th overall selection, had his name posted on the giant scoreboard at AT&T Stadium, the home of the team the Bulldog standout hopes to be playing against when the Cowboys head to Atlanta on Nov. 18.
"It made me think of all the football I've played in my life, where I came from and my childhood. It makes you put it all in perspective," said Oluokun, reflecting on the selection while watching the rest of the draft on TV at the home of his head coach, Tony Reno.
"Foye has been a tremendous player since he walked on campus," said Reno. "He made himself into an NFL player with his incredible work ethic and drive to be great. Foye is an example to all of our players who strive to play at the highest level. I am so happy for him and his family."
Oluokun wasn't the only Eli with big news today. Classmate Matthew Oplinger, an All-American and the Ivy League's Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, signed a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The Buck Buchanan Award Finalist for FCS Defensive Player of Year led the Ivies with 11.5 sacks and finished his career third on the school's sack list.
"I want to thank the Arizona Cardinals organization for the opportunity to pursue the goal I've had since I was a child. I also want to thank everyone at Yale and Delbarton that has impacted me positively and negatively, as everyone has played a pivotal role in getting me where I am today," said Oplinger. "Lastly and most importantly I want to thank my family: Mom, Dad, Lauren, Justin and Eric."
Reno's team used the NFL caliber pair to build a defense that dominated most of the 2017 season.
"Matt is an amazing leader and player. He is a true student of the game and has an intensity and love of the game that few can match. Matt is an example to our players on how to prepare as a professional and make the most of every opportunity," said the Elis' head coach.
Oluokun, 13th on the school's career tackling list with 271 stops, helped Yale win 9 of 10 games last fall and take its first outright league title in 37 years after making the move from safety to linebacker. He started all 10 games and was second on the team with 50 total tackles, including 10 at Penn, while earning numerous weekly honors.
As a safety his first 3 collegiate campaigns, he earned All-Ivy honors twice and received numerous school awards at the team banquet. His 44 solo tackles his first season were the most by an Ivy freshman that year, a statistic that helped him earn Yale's first-year MVP.
The last Bulldog drafted by an NFL team was Shane Bannon '11 (7th round, 223 overall) by Kansas City in 2011. Tyler Varga '15 (Indianapolis Colts, 2015) was the last Yalie to play in the NFL,
"I'm excited to keep playing this game, and I want to make the most out of what I've been given," said Oluokun, who reports to Atlanta for rookie camp on May 10.
Other All-Ivy League Bulldogs have a shot at making an NFL team this summer. Tight End Jaeden Graham was invited to the Oakland Raiders' mini camp this weekend, while the Detroit Lions want to look at the Yale senior next weekend at their camp. Defensive tackle Copache Tyler, who has been the focus of pro scouts the last few years, will go to the mini camp of the Tennessee Titans.
By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director