BOONE, N.C. — Four Appalachian State football players emerged from the NFL Draft weekend with deals to begin their professional careers.
Offensive lineman Colby Gossett, offensive lineman Beau Nunn, safety A.J. Howard and linebacker Eric Boggs took the next step Saturday, starting with Gossett being picked in the sixth round of the draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Nunn signed a free agent deal with the Detroit Lions, Howard signed a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals and Boggs agreed to terms to participate in the New York Jets’ rookie mini-camp, which begins Thursday.
In addition to the four rookies, eight App State alums ended the 2017 season on NFL rosters, and offensive lineman Parker Collins signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in April. Gossett, Nunn and Collins — who were part of the same recruiting class that enrolled in 2013 — are among the five offensive linemen in that group of 13.
Two of the rookies are joining organizations with Appalachian ties, as App State alum Steve Wilks is the first-year head coach of the Cardinals and former App State assistant coach George Edwards in the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.
The 6-foot-5, 311-pound Gossett became the first offensive guard from the Sun Belt Conference to ever be selected. He capped his App State career with 46 consecutive starts before appearing at both the prestigious Reese’s Senior Bowl in January and the NFL Scouting Combine a month later.
With Gossett often at right guard and Nunn at right tackle, Appalachian ranked in the top 20 nationally in sacks allowed and the top 25 in rushing yards per game in each of their four seasons as starters. They were key cogs for an offensive line that allowed only eight sacks in 2017 (No. 2 among FBS teams) and helped the Mountaineers rush for more than 300 yards in each of their last three games.
The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Nunn started 41 career games. Entering the 2017 bowl season, his overall grade of 86.6 from the PFF College Football site ranked 19th among 260-plus FBS tackles, and his four quarterback pressures led the 179 FBS tackles with at least 300 pass-block snaps. In receiving a grade of 92 from App State’s coaches in a 34-0 win against Toledo in the Dollar General Bowl, Nunn had 13 knockdown blocks (increasing his season total to 75) and seven pancakes (raising his season total to 21).
Nunn, who excelled at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, showed off his athleticism by amassing 28 bench-press reps and clocking in at 5.01 seconds in the 40 at App State’s Pro Day.
Howard started in 38 of his 51 career games at App State, totaling 219 tackles, four interceptions and 11 tackles for loss. He also played on a significant number of special teams units, a valuable skill for NFL rookies.
Howard made a stop on a catch at the 1-yard line seconds before time expired in a 20-13 win at Texas State in 2017, and his 61-yard interception return at Georgia State helped the Mountaineers take a 24-7 lead in a 31-10 victory.
Howard’s impressive draft prep, which began with a strong performance at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, included 24 bench-press reps and a time of 4.50 seconds in the 40 at App State’s Pro Day.
With Howard and Boggs playing important roles, App State’s defense ranked first or second among Sun Belt teams in both points allowed per game and yards allowed per game in each of the last three seasons. Boggs was the team’s leading tackler in all three of those seasons.
As an inside linebacker, Boggs played in 51 college games and started the final 45 of his career. He finished his App State career with 347 tackles, 12.5 sacks and eight interceptions.
Boggs was the only FBS defender in 2017 with the versatility to possess career totals of at least 325 tackles, 10 sacks and eight interceptions.