3 Mr. Football winners are among Indiana high school football stars seeking NFL glory

More than two dozen former Indiana high school football stars are seeking spots on 2023 NFL rosters, representing more than 20 IHSAA programs.

Four players from Ben Davis and Cathedral were in training camps. Fourteen players attended an Indiana high school and an Indiana college on the way to the NFL. One even played on both sides of the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry! (Find who that is below.)

Players from Ball State, Butler, Indiana, Indiana State, Notre Dame and Purdue were in training camps, and they are listed below.

Is there an Indiana high school alum on an NFL roster that we’re missing? Let us know at scott.horner@indystar.com.

The 26-year-old safety is set to anchor the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary in 2023 after signing a 4-year contract worth up to $64 million.

“We need a guy like him,” Jerry Gray, Falcons assistant head coach for defense, told AtlantaFalcons.com. “I love his leadership.”

He spent his first five seasons in Cincinnati, starting all 79 of his appearances and earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2020.

David Bell: Warren Central, Purdue

The second-year receiver had 24 catches for 214 yards in his rookie season, and the Cleveland Browns added Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin and Jordin Akins in the offseason.

“I’ve been embracing (competition) since high school,” Bell told cleveland.com. “When competition is in front of me, you step up to the opportunity.”

JuJu Brents: Warren Central

The Indianapolis Colts selected the former Warrior in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He has the opportunity to make an early impact in a young defensive backfield, but injuries (wrist, hamstring) slowed him in training camp.

Jeremy Chinn: Fishers

Chinn enters his fourth season with the Carolina Panthers, and he plans to be all over the field. Officially, he’s a safety, but he’s not concerned with labels.

“A nickel. A dime. I feel like there’s so many, I feel like that just kind of puts it in a box a little bit,” Chinn said in the offseason. “I mean, there’s so many areas that (defensive coordinator Erijo) Evero moves me around the field, so just saying I’ll just be a nickel, it doesn’t really do it justice.”

Chinn missed 6 games in the middle of 2022 with an injury.

Coy Cronk: Lafayette Central Catholic, IU

Cronk appeared in 3 games last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Sheldon Day: Warren Central, Notre Dame

He last played in 2021 but was in the Minnesota Vikings training camp.

He last played in 2021 but was in the Washington Commanders training camp. He had 8 catches for 87 in the XFL.

He has not appeared in an NFL game but was in Houston Texans training camp.

Emil Ekiyor: Cathedral

The undrafted offensive lineman spent training camp with the Colts, but was cut.

Chris Evans: Ben Davis

Though Evans is a running back, Joe Mixon gets the bulk of the carries for the Cincinnati Bengals, so he’s more likely to catch passes. Evans had 3 receptions for 38 yards in his second season with Cincinnati.

The 30-year-old defensive end is entering his second season with the Denver Broncos, as part of a 5-year contract worth up to $70 million. He appeared in just 6 games in 2022 because of injury, but he forced 2 fumbles and had 2 sacks in limited action.

“It’s always been big for me,” Gregory told DenverBroncos.com of living up to his potential. “I think my thing is fulfilling my end of the agreement, and a big part of that is being able to be available and be healthy. A lot of that’s been offseason just rehabbing, making sure that’s good on that end. I truly feel like if I’m out there for 17 games-plus, I’ll do what I need to do. And that’s the plan.”

Peyton Henderson: Tri-West, IU

Hendershot’s rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys yielded 11 receptions for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. Despite the departure of top tight end Dalton Schultz, Hendershot is feeling heat to remain on the roster.

He made a lot of his limited touches as a Los Angeles Chargers rookie fullback: 4 carries for 8 yards, and 5 catches for 8 yards and 2 touchdowns. As long as the Chargers keep a fullback, he’s it.

The 31-year-old is entering his fourth season with the New Orleans Saints after a long stint with the Baltimore Ravens.

If Hurst plays the full season, he will become one of fewer than 200 position players in NFL history to appear in 150 games after entering the league as an undrafted free agent.

“It’s a huge blessing,” Hurst told NOLA.com in training camp. “Honestly, it’s hard to believe at times. My first four seasons were, like, scratching and clawing and hoping I make the team.”

The fourth-round NFL Draft pick is getting rave reviews for his preseason with the Cleveland Browns. The tackle played extensively and didn’t allow Browns quarterbacks to get touched.

Jones has not appeared in an NFL game, but he has been in the Green Bay Packers training camp.

Packers linebacker Justin Hollins says of Jones: “He’s long as hell. … he’s just that big and that long where if somebody does beat him, he has the athleticism and size to recover and push you by (the quarterback).”

One season, one Super Bowl ring. Karlaftis started all of his rookie season, and got in on 33 tackles, including 6 sacks.

He has missed some training camp time with a stomach illness, but he’s eager to make a bigger impact this season.

“Just to experience every one of those games and go into the offseason — watching film, taking those mental reps in the offseason, then enhancing your physical just builds you up for a bigger and better season,” Karlaftis said. “Anything you can do really to help the team.”

The 31-year-old center became an immediate leader in his first season with the Cincinnati Bengals, and more of that is expected this season. Cincinnati had four new offensive linemen in 2022, so this season should require less heavy lifting.

“We’re so far ahead of where we were last year, especially from an O-Line perspective,” Karras said.

Zack Martin: Bishop Chatard, Notre Dame

The 32-year-old guard has 6 All-Pro nods in 9 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, but it was touchy during training camp. He held out before securing a deal that’s set to pay him $18 million per season, among the highest in the NFL for guards.

Martin explained the process to DallasCowboys.com: “It all came together when (the team) came back to Dallas. “(Team owner Jerry Jones and I) spent some face-to-face time and hammered this thing out. We reached out and some of my buddies here in the organization helped get that going, and it was good to get face-to-face with him.”

Cam McGrone: Lawrence Central

The linebacker appeared in one game as an Indianapolis Colts rookie in 2022, and has been with the Colts in training camp.

The Washington Commanders’ top receiver may miss the opener with a toe injury suffered in a preseason game.

The 2013 IndyStar Mr. Football winner had 77 catches for 1,191 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2022. Over four seasons, he has 299 catches for 4,281 yards and 21 scores.

The defensive back became more of a factor for the Seattle Seahawks in each of his five seasons, getting in on 66 tackles with 8 defended passes in 2022. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one year in the offseason.

Esezi Otomeow: Ben Davis

He appeared in five games in 2022, compiling 5 tackles for the Minnesota Vikings. He was in concussion protocol late in the preseason.

Danny Pinter: South Bend Adams, Ball State

Fun fact about Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Danny Pinter: He scored touchdowns for South Bend Adams, Ball State and the Colts.

Not so fun fact: Pinter suffered a broken ankle in the Colts’ preseason finale, ending his season.

“Danny’s a really good player for us,” Colts coach Shane Steichen said. “To lose a player like him is really unfortunate for us. I hope he has a speedy recovery.”

Skowronek’s production increased in his second season with the Los Angeles Rams, hauling in 39 catches for 376 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown. He’s in line to be their third receiver.

Jaylon Smith: FW Bishop Luers, Notre Dame

The 28-year-old linebacker had a bounce-back 2022 season with the New York Giants, getting 88 tackles. He signed a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints early in training camp.

“I’m here with the guys, I’m a competitor, I’m a baller,” Smith said, according to neworleanssaints.com. “Mike, Sam, Will (linebacker positions) – whatever coach (Dennis Allen) needs from me, I’m going to get the job done.”

Allen has indicated that if the 2012 Indiana IndyStar Mr. Football wants to play, he’ll have to include special teams among his duties.

Reese Taylor: Ben Davis, IU, Purdue

The undrafted free agent defensive back is in Kansas City Chiefs training camp. He earned 2017 IndiyStar Mr. Football honors.

Drue Tranquill: Carroll (Allen), Notre Dame

After four years with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a breakout 2022 (146 tackles, 5 sacks), the linebacker signed for one year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“He’s played … all three base linebacker positions,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said early in training camp. “That helps us a lot – listen it’s all new to him as far as the verbiage and the system so it tells you that he’s pretty intelligent if he’s playing in that many spots this early.”

Pete Werner: Cathedral

The New Orleans Saints linebacker missed five games late last season, but he still compiled 80 tackles. Offseason roster changes make his presence more essential this year.

Russ Yeast: Center Grove

The safety appeared in 15 games as a Los Angeles Rams rookie, getting 20 tackles. He played primarily on special teams in 2022, but plans on becoming a bigger part of the defense.

Here are players from Indiana colleges who are seeking roster spots in NFL training camps.

Ball State players in the NFL

Nic Jones, CB, Chiefs; Bryce Cosby, CB, Raiders; Amechi Uzodinma, CB, Chargers; Ray Wilborn, LB, Giants; Willie Snead IV, WR, 49ers.

Butler players in the NFL

Tyler Adams, WR, Colts.

Indiana football players in the NFL

Ian Thomas, TE, Panthers; Nate Sudfeld, QB, Lions; Ty Fryfogle, WR, Chiefs; Cam Jones, LB, Chiefs; Raheem Layne, S, Chargers; Tiawan Mullen, CB, Chargers; Dan Feeney, OL, Dolphins; Jaylin Williams, CB, Vikings; Ryder Anderson, DL, Giants; Marcelino McCrary-Ball, LB, 49ers; Luke Haggard, T, Buccaneers; Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, WR, Titans.

Indiana State players in the NFL

Robert Tonyan, TE, Bears; Dominique Dafney, TE, Buccaneers.

Notre Dame football players in the NFL

Kyle Hamilton, S, Ravens; Ronnie Stanley, T, Ravens; J.J. Jansen, LS, Panthers; Tommy Tremble, TE, Panthers; Chase Claypool, WR, Bears; Cole Kmet, TE, Bears; Josh Lugg, OL, Bears; Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Bears; Tony Jones Jr., RB, Broncos; Mike McGlinchey, T, Broncos; Brandon Aubrey, K, Cowboys; Scott Daly, LS, Lions; Avery Davis, WR, Lions; Brandon Joseph, S, Lions; Romeo Okwara, DL, Lions; Brock Wright, TE, Lions; Kyren Williams, RB, Rams; Kurt Hinish, DT, Texans; Jarrett Patterson, OL, Texans; Khalid Kareen, DE, Colts; Quenton Nelson, G, Colts; Kevin Austin Jr., WR, Jaguars; Alex Bars, G, Raiders; Michael Mayer, TE, Raiders; Isaac Rochell, DE, Raiders; Jerry Tillery, DT, Raiders; Alohi Gilman, S, Chargers; Liam Eichenberg, OL, Dolphins; Durham Smythe, TE, Dolphins; Harrison Smith, S, Vikings; Isaiah Foskey, DE, Saints; Blake Grupe, K, Saints; Tommy Kraemer, G, Saints; Tony Pride Jr., DB, Saints; Ian Book, QB, Eagles; Miles Boykin, WR, Steelers; Jalen Elliott, S, Steelers; Aaron Banks, OL, 49ers; Julian Love, S, Seahawks; Robert Hainsey, OL, Buccaneers; Alize Mack, TE, Titans.

Purdue football players in the NFL

David Blough, QB, Cardinals; Rondale Moore, WR, Cardinals; Markus Bailey, LB, Bengals; Charlie Jones, WR, Bengals; Tyler Coyle, S, Cowboys; Derrick Barnes, LB, Lions; Brycen Hopkins, TE, Rams; Aidan O’Connell, QB, Raiders; Milton Wright, WR, Chargers; Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins; Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Patriots; Grant Hermanns, OL, Jets; Dennis Kelly, T, Eagles; Corey Trice Jr., DB, Steelers; Jalen Graham, LB, 49ers; Payne Durham, TE, Buccaneers; Jordan Roos, G, Titans.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana high school football players on 2023 NFL rosters

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