Even the cutthroat world of NFL cutdown day couldn’t keep Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis apart.
The former Maryland defensive line mates joined former Terps Matt Furstenburg and Darin Drakeford as rookies still signed to teams heading into week one of the NFL season. Vellano and Francis are a part of the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster, while Furstenburg and Drakeford joined the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squads, respectively.
Vellano signed with the Patriots shortly after the draft and quickly made an impression on coaches with his instincts and motor. The former All-American is listed as the primary backup to both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly on head coach Bill Belichek’s depth chart.
Francis started his NFL journey with the Miami Dolphins, heading south after signing as an undrafted free agent. A productive preseason was not enough to earn Francis a spot on the Dolphins roster, but New England claimed the Maryland native off waivers. He will provide depth behind Vellano.
Another UDFA, Furstenburg found himself in position for a potential roster spot after injuries to tights ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Unable to earn a place on the 53-man roster, Furstenburg will remain in Baltimore as a valuable practice player.
Drakeford, the Terps’ 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, notched six total tackles for the Chiefs in preseason and will continue to try and impress on the practice squad.
Maryland currently boasts 21 former players on NFL rosters.