At least two former Mississippi State football players are hooking up with NFL teams via free agency. Center J.C. Brignone arrived in Chicago today and has signed with the Bears, and long snapper Aaron Feld told me he will sign with Tampa Bay on Wednesday morning (he's already in Tampa).
Brignone said he spoke with five teams yesterday but was set on Chicago, for two reasons.
"Just the opportunity I'm going to get to be behind somebody like Olin (Kreutz), but then also just the tradition," Brignone said. "The Bears kind of remind me a lot like State – the background, a lot of deep traditions, and to be able to play for a club like this is a dream for a lot of people, and I'm getting to live this dream."
Kreutz is Chicago's starting center and entering his 14th season, and Chicago is trying to re-sign him. Brignone just hopes for the chance to learn under Kreutz, but of course first he's got to survive all the cuts. Camp begins with 90 players, but rosters must be trimmed to 53 by the season opener.
Brignone said he was "upset" about not being drafted, even though he was not projected to be taken. It gives him a little more motivation.
"They're giving me an opportunity to play in the NFL and do what I love to do. It's basically just another chip on my shoulder for me to look at – oh, OK, they didn't draft me, so obviously I didn't do something right. So I've got to figure it out and take it to the next step."
In his talks with the Bears, Brignone said they liked his tenacity and smarts, and he feels he can handle the load Chicago's coaches put on the center.
Like everyone else, Brignone's glad the lockout is over. Undrafted free agents could not sign with teams until it ended (normally that process begins immediately after the draft, which this year was held April 28-30). Brignone, who has a wife and young child, worked odd jobs this summer while waiting. Mowing grass, working with players at his old high school (St. Stanislaus), whatever it took "to keep us afloat."
His family will stay at home until Brignone's fate with the Bears is determined.
"I don't plan on them staying at home much. I hope they're coming up here."
I'll update y'all about any other free agent signings as they happen.