Undrafted free agent Pace Murphy makes Rams roster; Lane, Simon back as expected

By Doug Ireland

Undrafted Agent

Undrafted free agents fight immense odds to survive each NFL preseason roster cut, and few make it to opening day. ButSaturday, another Northwestern State Demon did.

Rookie offensive tackle Pace Murphy made the 53-man Los Angeles Rams active roster when head coach Jeff Fisher announced the team’s final round of cuts. While that was surprising news to most NFL observers, two other NSU products, veterans Jeremy Lane (Seattle) and Deon Simon (New York Jets), made their teams as expected, giving the Demons three players active as the NFL kicks off next weekend.

Two other former Demon players are NFL coaches. Bill Johnson is the New Orleans Saints defensive line coach, while Barry Rubin is the strength coach for Kansas City. NSU’s offensive coordinator in 2013, Robby Brown, is in his second year as an offensive quality control assistant with the Jets.

Another pair of NSU standouts are playing in the Canadian Football League this season. Cornerback Imoan Claiborne, a 2014 All-American for the Demons, is with the Ottawa RedBlacks after spending part of last season in the NFL on the practice squad for Tampa Bay, while 2014 senior receiver Bryant Mitchell is in action for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Murphy became the latest in a series of former Demons to make an NFL regular-season roster as an undrafted free agent, including pro legends Charlie Hennigan and Charlie Tolar. This century, NSU standouts such as receiver Nathan Black, running back Tony Taylor and linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse have made the difficult journey to NFL sidelines.

NSU coaches had gotten encouraging reports from Rams personnel since Murphy signed with the team following the 2016 NFL Draft in late April, including a couple of weeks ago when a Rams scout visited the Demons’ preseason workouts.

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ben Norton was filled with joy and pride in his former player Saturday afternoon.

Pace Murphy is a tremendous worker with great functional intelligence needed to excel as an offensive lineman,” said Norton. “It does not surprise me at all that he has made the Rams roster. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the privilege to coach him for three years here at NSU and be a part of his development. He has always had his priorities in the proper order and is passionate about succeeding in anything he does.”

Murphy (6-6, 297) was a second-team All-Southland Conference selection last year. He graduated in December from the Louisiana Scholars’ College at NSU.

Lane, a sixth-round 2011 draft pick, begins his fifth NFL season as a starter in the Seahawks’ secondary. Simon, a seventh-round selection in the 2015 draft, is the second-team nose tackle for the Jets.

Another undrafted free agent Demon in 2016, receiver and returner Ed Eagan, was waived during the preseason by Dallas and Cleveland, but could be signed to a practice squad roster.