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Knights in the Pros: 21 Former UCF Players on NFL Rosters

ORLANDO – As the UCF football team prepares for its next matchup at Boise State, 21 former Knights look to begin their quest for a Super Bowl. The 2023 NFL season kicks off Thursday evening with a matchup between the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Detroit Lions. Last season, former Knight Jordan Franks won a ring with the Chiefs.

Buffalo Bills’ fourth-year wide receiver Gabriel Davis became a first-time captain this season. He is coming off a stellar 2022 campaign in which he recorded a career-high 836 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Davis, who is known as “Big Game Gabe”, has shined when the lights are the brightest. In seven career playoff games, Davis has recorded 22 receptions for 474 yards, with six touchdowns. Davis’s best performance came against the Chiefs in the 2022 divisional round, where he recorded eight receptions for 201 yards, with four receiving touchdowns (an NFL playoff record).

UCF Hall of Famer Latavius Murray will join Gabriel Davis as a member of the Bills this season. Murray, who is entering his 10th season, has 57 career touchdowns, with 8,167 all-purpose yards. Murray spent last season with the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015.

The Cleveland Browns feature three former Knights on their roster: tight end Jordan Akins, defensive tackle Trysten Hill, and long snapper Charley Hughlett. Akins, a 2018 third-round pick by the Houston Texans, played in 15 games for the Texans last season, and recorded a career-high in both yards (495) and touchdowns (5). Hill, a 2019 second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys, appeared in seven games for Dallas and six games for the Arizona Cardinals last year. Hughlett is entering his ninth season as the Browns’ long snapper.

Fellow long snapper Alex Ward made the 53-man roster for the Los Angeles Rams. Ward, who spent six total seasons with the Knights, achieved numerous accomplishments on and off the field, which included being named a 2022 second team All-America long snapper. Currently, Ward is the only rookie undrafted free agent on the Rams’ 53-man roster.

Two other UCF rookies made NFL practice squads. Cornerback Divaad “Newt” Wilson, who led the Knights in interceptions last season, made the Cardinals’ practice squad, while the New York Jets signed offensive tackle Ryan Swoboda to their practice squad.

Entering his sixth season with the New Orleans Saints, Tre’Quan Smith will look to add to his solid NFL career in which the wide receiver has tallied 18 career touchdowns and 1,764 career receiving yards. He’s posted season-highs of five touchdowns (twice) and 448 receiving yards during his time with New Orleans.  

After playing with both Seattle and Jacksonville, former UCF cornerback and 2019 Pro Bowl selection Shaquill Griffin makes his way Houston where he will start his seventh NFL season with the Texans. Griffin has six career NFL interceptions and 327 tackles under his belt. Fellow cornerback Mike Hughes enters his sixth NFL season and his first with Atlanta in 2023 (three career interceptions, 178 tackles), while safety Richie Grant is also on the Falcons as he’s back for his third year in Atlanta after racking up 70 tackles and a pair of interceptions last season. Wide receiver Brandon Johnson is back for his second season with the Denver Broncos after catching a touchdown and racking up 42 yards on six catches during his rookie campaign last year. After missing 2022 with an injury, 2022 sixth-round pick of the 49ers Kalia Davis will look to have a strong season in San Francisco this fall.

The veteran of the group is once again kicker Matt Prater. The former standout Knight kicker from 2002-2005 enters his 17th NFL season and third with the Arizona Cardinals. Prater is an All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl selection who holds the NFL record for most 50-plus yard field goals with 70 and the most extra points in one season with 75. 

Three former UCF players in Tay Gowan (CB, Minnesota Vikings, 3rd NFL Season), Aaron Robinson (CB, New York Giants, 3rd NFL Season) and Tre Nixon (WR, New England Patriots, 3rd NFL Season) will begin on the PUP list, while Jacob Harris (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, 3rd NFL Season), Justin McCray (OL, Carolina Panthers, 7th NFL Season), Matthew Wright (K, San Francisco 49ers, 4th Season) and Swoboda (OT, New York Jets, Rookie) will open on the practice squad.

With 21 current players on NFL rosters, UCF ranks fifth in the Big 12 Conference in that department this season. Oklahoma leads the way with 39 former players on NFL rosters, while Texas follows with 35, TCU 26 and Cincinnati 25. UCF will enter the season ahead of nine fellow Big 12 schools in Houston (20), Oklahoma State (20), Baylor (18), BYU (18), Kansas State (17), Texas Tech (15), Iowa State (11), West Virginia (14) and Kansas (6). In all, the Big 12 will open the 2023 NFL season with 195 former players in the NFL (active or reserve). 

2023 UCF NFL Players
Jordan Akins, TE (Cleveland Browns)
Gabe Davis, WR (Buffalo Bills)
Kalia Davis, DT (San Francisco 49ers)
Tay Gowan, CB+ (Minnesota Vikings)
Richie Grant, S (Atlanta Falcons)
Shaquill Griffin, CB (Houston Texans)
Jacob Harris, WR^ (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Trysten Hill, DT^ (Cleveland Browns)
Mike Hughes, CB (Atlanta Falcons)
Charley Hughlett, LS (Cleveland Browns)
Brandon Johnson, WR (Denver Broncos)
Justin McCray, OL^ (Carolina Panthers)
Latavius Murray, RB (Buffalo Bills)
Tre Nixon, WR+ (New England Patriots)
Matt Prater, K (Arizona Cardinals)
Aaron Robinson, CB+ (New York Giants)
Tre’Quan Smith, WR (New Orleans Saints)
Ryan Swoboda, OT^ (New York Jets)
Alex Ward, LS (Los Angeles Rams)
Divaad Wilson, CB^ (Arizona Cardinals)
Matthew Wright, K^ (San Francisco 49ers)

+ Indicates on Reserve or PUP
^ Denotes on Practice Squad