Professional football franchises looking to college basketball for diamonds in the rough is something that’s occurred with greater frequency in recent years. Last year Erik Swoope, who played college basketball at Miami, spent the entire season in the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and former Milwaukee basketball player Demetrius Harris saw action in three games for the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the 2015 NFL Draft nearly two weeks away, two athletes who completed their college basketball careers last month have landed on the NFL radar.
Ross Travis, a 6-foot-7 forward who played four seasons for Patrick Chambers at Penn State, has decided to take a shot at making the move into professional football. According to Ben Jones of StateCollege.com Travis considered returning to campus to play for Penn State before ultimately deciding that it would be best for him to make a run at the NFL now. That way, if it doesn’t work out Travis can transition to a professional basketball career since he’s out of college eligibility in that sport.
Travis also noted the successful transition made by basketball players before him as a reason for his decision to try his hand at professional football.
“I don’t know if I’d be in this situation if I was the first one to be doing this,” Travis said. “Seeing the success of these other guys who literally have identical stats as far as basketball goes. It almost made it a no-brainer for me to go give it a shot. Seeing them go through it it made it easy for me to go.”
“If the interest is there, the biggest thing for me right now is putting on weight and getting my head into the playbook and getting to know football terminology,” Travis added. “This has always been something — the last time I played was in ninth grade, but this has always been something that’s been in the back of my mind.”
Joining Travis as a player who’s piqued interest amongst some NFL scouts of late is 6-foot-6 forward Richard Ross, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior at Old Dominion. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Minnesota Vikings worked out Ross on the ODU campus Wednesday.
Looking to college basketball for possible prospects isn’t a bad idea at all, especially when it comes to the tight end position. While players such as Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham had experience playing college football (Gates played briefly at Michigan State before transferring to Kent State), there are others who did not but have the athleticism to entertain thoughts of making the switch.
And with NFL rosters being what they are, as teams begin preseason camp with as many as 90 players and also have a practice squad during the season, teams can spend some time with intriguing prospects working on the nuances of the game. Like Erik Swoope and Demetrius Harris before them, Travis and Ross could be interesting case studies moving forward.
While it would be extremely ambitious to project either to reach the level of a Gates or Graham, maybe they can make the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron.