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VOL. 133 | NO. 86 | Monday, April 30, 2018

Tigers' WR Anthony Miller and LB Genard Avery Selected in NFL Draft

QB Riley Ferguson Signs as Free Agent

By Don Wade

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Two former University of Memphis football players were selected in the 2018 NFL Draft and a third signed as a free agent.

Wide receiver Anthony Miller was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears at number 51 overall, and linebacker Genard Avery was taken in the fifth round, at number 150 overall, by the Cleveland Browns.

This is the sixth consecutive season Memphis has had at least one player drafted.

Riley Ferguson, who played quarterback at Memphis the last two seasons, was not drafted but soon after the draft signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ferguson first went to Tennessee, transferred to a junior college, and then came to Memphis. In 2017, Ferguson became the first Memphis quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.s

As he said last season when looking back at his career and ahead to his dream of playing in the NFL, “I would say there’s a lot of paths to get where you want to go. If you have the determination in yourself, you can’t go as far as you possibly can within (your ability). People try and overlook certain people or hype up certain people and my whole life I’ve tried not to worry about that.”

Wide receiver Anthony Miller makes a dive for the end zone for the first Memphis Tigers touchdown during the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl game against Iowa State. (Daily News File/Houton Cofield)

Miller capped his time at Memphis with career, single-season and single-game records for catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He became the first non-specialist in Memphis history to earn NCAA Consensus All-America honors after being named first team All-American by the AFCA and Associated Press and second team by FWAA and Sports Illustrated.

He leaves Memphis with virtually every receiving record in school history after arriving as a walk-on from Christian Brothers High School. He owns the career records with 238 catches for 3,590 yards and 37 touchdowns. His single-season marks in 2017 of 96 catches for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns are school records and his 18 touchdowns tied for the lead in the NCAA last year. Miller played a role in Memphis making bowl trips 2015-2017 and winning the 2017 West Division title in the American Athletic Conference.

Prior to Memphis playing in last year’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Miller said just because he was about to play in his last college football game did not mean he was going to leave the university or the city behind.

“I’d really like to help the youth of the city because that’s the group that needs the most support,” he said. “When I get in position to make a real impact, that’s what I’m gonna do. Once a Tiger always a Tiger.”

Genard Avery during the Memphis vs UCLA game on September 16, 2017. (Daily News File/Houton Cofield)

Avery, a two-time, first-team all-conference honoree, appeared in 50 career games at Memphis, including every game over his final two seasons. He set a single season record for tackles for loss with 22.0 in his final year at Memphis and his 45.5 career tackles for loss is second in the Memphis record book only to former NFL linebacker Tim Harris.

For his four-year Memphis career, Avery finished with 232 tackles, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns in 2016.

“I’m versatile,” Avery said at the NFL Combine. “I can do anything.”

With his selection in the fifth round, Avery becomes the first Memphis linebacker to be drafted since Richard Hogans in 1997. Hogans was drafted in the sixth round by the Bears.

Miller became the eighth Tiger to be drafted by the Bears. The others, besides Hogans: Marvin Thomas, DE, Seventh Round, Pick 233, in 1997; Clif Taylor, FB, Third Round, Pick 62, in 1974; Robert Lyles, B, Pick 26, in 1958; Bob Schmidt, B, Pick 14, in 1957; Joe Billings, T, Pick 22, in 1956; and Wayne Wood, T, Pick 22, in 1953.

Avery is the first Tiger to be drafted by Cleveland since Brandon McDonald was drafted in 2007.

Memphis had two players selected in the NFL Draft for the first time since 2015 when Bobby McCain (Miami) and Martin Ifedi (St. Louis) were drafted. Memphis has not had three players drafted since 2001.

Other Tigers drafted by the Browns besides McDonald and Avery: Marlon Brown, LB, 12thround, 328thpick, in 1989; Bob Baxter, FL, 15thround, 400thpick, in 1968; Olie Cordill, B, 11thround, in 1965; and Dennis Biodrowski, E, 16th round, in 1962.

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