Ex-Penguins seek training camp spot
By Joe Scalzo
Despite going undrafted, then going unsigned immediately after the draft, then going unsigned on the day after the draft, it’s not fair to say Nick Liste was 100-percent convinced his NFL punting dreams were dead.
But 99.9 percent?
“I thought I was done, to be honest,” said Liste, a Niles High graduate who was first team all-conference punter at Youngstown State last season. “But I was holding out hope. I do understand teams are not necessarily going after kickers and punters first when it comes to free agency. I thought maybe I could still get a shot down the line.”
Then, on Monday morning, Liste got a call from his agent. The Detroit Lions were inviting him to Friday’s rookie minicamp. True, the Lions already had a good ex-FCS punter in Sam Martin, who Detroit selected in the fifth round of last year’s draft out of Appalachian State, but it was an opportunity.
That’s all Liste wanted.
“Obviously I’m looking to do the best I can,” he said. “No matter what happens, I’ll get my foot in the door and that’s really what I’m hoping to do. If I can get on film, maybe other teams will get it too.”
Liste was one of two ex-Penguins to earn rookie camp invitations on Monday, joining offensive tackle Kyle Bryant, whose agent was still negotiating with the Bengals and Jets on Monday night, but who is planning to attend the Jacksonville Jaguars’ camp on Friday.
“I tried to be optimistic through the whole process, which is almost impossible,” said Bryant (6-6, 310). “There were definitely doubts the last few days. But now I feel a lot better. There’s a weight off my shoulders.”
Boardman High graduate Corey Linsley (Ohio State) was the only area player to get drafted last weekend, going to the Packers in the fifth round. But two players signed free agent contracts on Saturday — YSU lineman Chris Elkins (Steelers) and Howland High/Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott (Vikings) — and another, Liberty High graduate/Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint earned a tryout with the Ravens on Monday.
Toussaint did not return phone calls seeking comment.
YSU has had at least one undrafted free agent make it to the NFL in three of the last four years: WR Donald Jones (2010, Bills), DB Brandian Ross (2011, Packers), OL Lamar Mady (2013, Raiders) and RB Jamaine Cook (2013, Browns).
Bryant hopes to continue that tradition.
“We’re kind of like pioneers for the YSU program,” he said. “I want to see us produce multiple guys from year to year and put YSU on the map.”