By Jonathan Rodriguez
Since 2011, the Texas State Football program has immensely progressed in efforts to garner the attention of the NCAA. It was not too long ago where the Texas State Bobcats hired former TCU, Alabama, and Texas A&M coach, Dennis Franchione to lead this team to the upper echelon of the collegiate football program. The following year would see the program’s inaugural Division I Football Bowl Subdivision season as the team transitioned to the Western Athletic Conference. Texas State would face the Texas Tech Red Raiders in what was then the biggest game in school history. The years followed would see the Bobcats enter the Sun Belt Conference, amass two bowl-eligible seasons, and face prestigious opponents such as Navy and perennial contender Florida State.
As with any program, its foundation is built upon the student-athletes that step on the field and wear their school colors on Saturdays. Recently, Texas State has produced more players that have gone on to the National Football League. Players such as Joplo Bartu, Craig Mager, David Mayo, and Darryl Morris have found themselves on the rosters of professional teams representing the Maroon and Gold. As we examine these players, perhaps this group of athletes can begin to build a reputation for Texas State as a football factory.
Joplu Bartu, former defensive standout for Texas State has quickly found a home with the Atlanta Falcons as a linebacker. Bartu was brought on as an undrafted rookie but was quickly inserted into the lineup due to injuries. His 2013 rookie season saw him play in all sixteen games with thirteen of them having #59 in the starting slot. His stats that season included 85 combined tackles, 47 solo tackles, and 3.5 sacks.
Bartu would statistically follow his rookie season with once again appearing in all 16 games with 83 combined tackles, 47 solo tackles, and one sack. Bartu is currently behind former Dallas Cowboy Justin Durant on the depth chart, but expect Bartu to be as productive as he has been when his number is called.
This past year’s draft saw two playmakers get their name called to join the big show. The third round saw cornerback Craig Mager get drafted as the 83rd overall pick to the San Diego Chargers and linebacker David Mayo in the fifth round as the 169th overall pick to the Carolina Panthers.
Craig Mager saw some sufficient time in the preseason and so far has appeared in one game for the San Diego Chargers. Mager is currently working to improve his play on the field and should be in great hands with the likes of veteran Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett currently leading the way on the depth chart. As Mager play progresses and continues to improve, he should see himself play as the Chargers try to contend this year in the AFC West.
Perhaps the most anticipated player from the fans’ perspective is linebacker David Mayo. Texas State fans marveled at his playing style and tenacity as he was second in the nation with 154 tackles and earned Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Mayo is in great company yet stiff competition with Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is a two time Pro-Bowler and 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Mayo could learn quite a bit from a player of that caliber that is only in their third year. Mayo was a great athlete but as any player will tell you, college and the NFL are two different monsters. Mayo should transition well with his tenacity and instinct and within a few years be a reliable Sunday regular.