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CU football: Five Buffs land NFL jobs as undrafted free agents

Former CU running Christian Powell signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent on Saturday.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Former CU running Christian Powell signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent on Saturday.

Christian Powell would have liked to take part in Colorado’s commencement on May 7.

On Saturday, however, the former CU running back made other plans, agreeing to a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It’s a major blessing,” said Powell, who will report for Steelers minicamp on Friday. “It’s just another opportunity to get out there and showcase what I can do.”

Powell was one of five former Buffaloes to agree to a deal with an NFL team at the conclusion of Saturday’s draft. Safety Jered Bell will sign with the San Francisco 49ers, cornerback Kenneth Crawley with the New Orleans Saints, tackle Stephane Nembot with the Baltimore Ravens and receiver Nelson Spruce with the Los Angeles Rams.

For the second year in a row, the Buffs were shut out of the draft. It’s the first time since 1949-50 that CU has gone two consecutive years without a player being drafted.

Despite a disappointing senior season, when he saw a reduction in opportunities to touch the ball, Powell kept his dream alive of playing in the NFL.

“I definitely felt like it could have been an opportunity, as long as I wanted to chase it,” said Powell, who led CU in rushing three years in a row from 2012-14. “I know I was blessed to do some things before my senior year and teams saw that.”

Teams weren’t lining up for Powell, but the 6-foot, 235-pound back caught the attention of the Steelers, who first contacted him a month or two ago, he said.

“They said I would help them fit their big-back type of protocol, so they’ve been interested in me,” he said.

As for graduation, Powell said he figured he would miss the ceremony if this opportunity to came up.

“I’m not too disappointed about it,” he said. “In my eyes, as long as I get that piece of paper, I’m good.”

Nembot was projected as a late-round draft pick, but said his mild disappointment over not getting picked evaporated quickly. At the end of the draft, nearly every team in the league called him, and he elected to sign with the Ravens.

“I wasn’t drafted, but I still have my shot,” he said. “It’s all about working and what do you do with your shot once you get it? That’s what I’m looking for.”

The Ravens contacted Nembot every week leading up to the draft and he was impressed by their honesty. They told him from the beginning they wouldn’t draft him, but wanted him as a free agent.

“I like honesty in life and they were honest with me pretty much from the get-go,” he said.

Nembot is eager to work with Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo. Nembot had a chance to workout with former NFL lineman Tra Thomas, who spent 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles being coached by Castillo, and had plenty of good things to say about his former coach.

Nembot hopes to make a good impression on Castillo and the other Ravens coaches.

“It if works, great,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I will know in my mind, conscience and soul that I tried my best and I will just have to move to the next step of my life, like everyone else.

“But, I’m planning on making it go right.”

Bell is excited about his opportunity, too. During a CU career that included two missed seasons because of injury, he often wondered if he’d get a chance at the NFL. Bell played well as a senior, though, and then impressed scouts during workouts.

Bell said about six teams were in contact with him, but the 49ers were the most persistent.

“After the draft, they were the first team that called, so I was excited to jump on the offer as soon as I could,” he said. “It’s truly a blessing to go out and just receive an opportunity like this. I plan on making the most of it.”


Receiver Paul Richardson, a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, was the last CU player drafted. … Former CU offensive lineman Alex Lewis, who played his final two seasons at Nebraska, was a fourth-round selection (130th overall) of the Ravens. Lewis played the 2011 and 2012 seasons at CU, starting at 12 games at guard in 2012. … Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant was a sixth-round pick (186th overall) of the Miami Dolphins. Grant’s position coach the last two years was new CU receivers coach/co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or

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