T-Birds in the NFL 2019 Season Recap

T-Birds in the NFL

With the 2019 NFL season nearly  completed, some former SUU football players will look to free agency as their contracts have expired, while others are getting ready for their season to start. Out of the two former Thunderbird players currently on NFL rosters, one of them made the NFL Playoffs.

LeShaun Sims – Tennessee Titans Cornerback

Sims also finished his fourth season in the NFL, all of which have been played for the Tennessee Titans. He will also enter free agency with the expiration of his rookie contract after the 2019 season.

While also struggling to find consistent playing time on the defensive side of the ball during the Mike Vrabel era in Nashville, Sims has been a vital contributor to the Titan’s defensive backfield.

Although Sims got minimal playing time in the Titans’ run to the AFC Championship game, he finished the 2019 season with 39 combined tackles, 27 solo and 12 assisted, and two pass deflections. Sims also started two games during the season, picking up half his tackles in those games.

Sims could garner attention during free agency given his ability to fill in for the Titans defense during the last four years. He also has a fantastic locker room presence according to his teammates.

“[Sims is] a workaholic.,” Titans’ All-Pro safety Kevin Byard told Sports Illustrated. “This guy’s here early in the morning. He does his job. He does what he needs to do. He’s been pretty much practicing and preparing himself like he is a starter since he’s been here.”

Miles Killebrew – Detroit Lions Defensive Back

Killebrew finished his fourth season in the NFL, all of which he has played with the Lions. With his rookie contract now expired, Killebrew will enter free agency for the first time.

Although Killebrew has struggled to find playing time on defense during the Matt Patricia era in Detroit, he started at safety for the first time since the 2017 season.

Despite a limited defensive role, Killebrew was a vital member of the Lions’ special teams unit.

“He obviously plays a lot of snaps for us special teams-wise and he’s an integral part of what we do there,” Lions’ head coach Matt Patricia told SB Nation this year.

Killebrew finished the season with 20 combined tackles, 18 solo and two assisted.

The Lions failed to make the playoffs, finishing the 2019 season with a 3-12-1 record. Detroit will have the third pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and are projected to select a player to bolster their defensive backfield. Killebrew may have to battle for playing time if this is so, assuming he resigns with the Lions.

He should be able to attract attention from several NFL teams during the offseason for his ability to play both safety and linebacker, as well as his impact on special teams.

Even if Killebrew does not get playing time, his value on a scout team to simulate multiple arrays of defenders could be valuable to a Super Bowl contending team.

Other Leagues

Four other former Thunderbirds are also spread out across other professional football leagues across the country.

Punter Brock Miller and offensive lineman Marquez Tucker were drafted into the XFL late last year. Tucker was selected by the Houston Roughnecks while Miller landed  with the Seattle Dragons. Former defensive back Josh Thornton was  signed by the Dallas Renegades as a free agent.

Former defensive back Jarmaine Doubs Jr. was signed a contract with the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League.

Story by: Kurt Meacham
kurtleymeacham@gmail.com
Photo by: SUU Athletics

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