KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island football fans will be keeping a close eye on the NFL Draft over the next few days, as the program is very likely to see its first player drafted in more than three decades.
In fact, one must go back to 1986 to find the last URI football player to hear his name called during the draft. That year, offensive lineman Bob White was drafted by the New York Jets in the seventh round with the 189th overall pick.
This year's draft figures to be a historic one for Rhode Island. Offensive lineman Kyle Murphy and wide receivers Aaron Parker, Isaiah Coulter and Ahmere Dorsey all have the potential to get selected. The presence of those four in the pool means this could well be the first time since 1968 Rhode Island has multiple players taken in the draft.
With that in mind, here is a look at the 12 players in Rhode Island history who have been drafted by NFL teams since the draft began in 1936.
One player - the legendary Pat Abbruzzi - holds the distinction of being picked twice. Technically, he is both the first and second URI player to be drafted.
Rhody's all-time leading rusher, Abbruzzi was drafted by Baltimore in both 1954 and 1955. The Colts took him in the 30th round at the 352nd overall pick in 1954. Abbruzzi returned to Rhody for his senior year and was again taken by Baltimore in 1955, this time with the 147th pick, coming in the 13th round.
1955 was the first of two times Rhode Island had more than one player drafted. In addition to Abbruzzi, offensive lineman Dick Grann also was drafted by Baltimore, getting selected in the 25th round with the 291st overall pick. Neither ever played for the Colts, though Abbruzzi had a strong four-year career with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Aloutettes, rushing for 3,749 yards and 45 touchdowns from 1955-58, earning CFL East All-Star recognition in his first two seasons.
It was another eight years before Rhode Island had a player drafted. In 1963, lineman Alan Arbuse went to the Los Angeles Rams in the 14th round, going 183rd overall. Arbuse went on to serve as the Public School Athletic League football commissioner in New York City.
In 1968, Rhody had two players drafted. Center Howie Small went to Minnesota with the 308th pick, which came in Round 12. Flanker Frank Geiselman went to the Green Bay Packers one round later at pick 353.
The 1970s proved to be the most successful decade in the NFL Draft for Rhode Island. Four players were picked throughout the decade, including a pair of fifth-round selections in defensive lineman Steve Furness (1972) and offensive lineman Jeff Williams (1977). Running backs Molly McGee (Atlanta, Round 16) and Rick Moser (Pittsburgh, Round 8) also got the call in the 70s.
Furness remains the highest draft pick in Rhode Island history, going to the Steelers with the 113th overall selection. He also had the most decorated NFL career of any URI player. A part of the famed Steel Curtain defense, Furness earned four Super Bowl rings and played in 106 games in a career that spanned from 1972 through 1981. He started at defensive tackle in Super Bowl XVIII and recorded 32 sacks in his career with Pittsburgh.
Williams was taken with the 134th pick by the Rams and also lasted several years in the league, playing for the Rams, Washington, San Diego and Chicago from 1977-82. He logged 56 career games, spending most of his time as a starter.
1978 resulted in a special time period for Rhode Island when Moser was drafted with the 208th pick by Pittsburgh, where he joined Furness. It is the first time in program history multiple Rhode Island alumni played for the same team. Moser won Super Bowl rings in 1978 and 1979 and was considered Pittsburgh's top special teams coverage player both years. He played five seasons in the NFL, logging time with the Steelers, Miami, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
McGee, who was taken with the 408th pick by Atlanta in 1974, played 10 games for the Falcons as a rookie. He went on to play for Charlotte in the short-lived World Football League before lasting five seasons in the CFL. He was breaking out as a star in 1978 when he led the league in receptions with 68 for Saskatchewan, but a knee injury in 1980 ended his career.
In 1981, Chy Davidson was selected by New England in the 11th round of the league's supplemental draft. He spent time with the Patriots, Redskins and Washington Federals of the USFL before singing with the New York Jets. Davidson's years of work paid off when he played in four NFL games for the Jets over the 1984 and 1985 seasons.
Though he never appeared in a game, tackle Rich Pelzer was taken in the 1983 draft by Philadelphia, going in the ninth round with the 232nd pick.
That brings us to Bob White, Rhody's most recent draft pick. He went to the New York Jets in 1986 in the seventh round, at 189th overall. While he didn't make the Jets final roster, he did later play for Dallas and New England, logging 24 games played from 1987 through 1990.
Rhode Island Players in the NFL Draft
1986 - Bob White, OL, New York Jets, Round 7, Pick 189
1983 - Rich Pelzer, T, Philadelphia, Round 9, Pick 232
1981 - Chy Davidson, WR, New England, Round 11 (Supplemental)
1978 - Rick Moser, RB, Pittsburgh, Round 8, Pick 208
1977 - Jeff Williams, OL, L.A. Rams, Round 5, Pick 134
1974 - Molly McGee, RB, Atlanta, Round 16, Pick 408
1972 - Steve Furness, DL, Pittsburgh, Round 5, Pick 113
1968 - Howie Small, OL, Minnesota, Round 12, Pick 308
1968 - Frank Geiselman, FL, Green Bay, Round 13, Pick 353
1963 - Alan Arbuse, OL, L.A. Rams, Round 14, Pick 183
1955 - Pat Abbruzzi, RB, Baltimore, Round 13, Pick 147
1955 - Dick Grann, OL, Baltimore, Round 25, Pick 291
1954 - Pat Abbruzzi, RB, Baltimore, Round 30, Pick 352