After the announcer of the National Football League’s draft called J.J. Wilcox’s name he said “Georgia Southern University,” and fans of the NFL were introduced to the university.
With the selection of Wilcox in the third round (18th pick, 80th overall), and the eventual arrival of GSU in the Football Bowl Subdivision by way of the Sun Belt Conference, GSU is on its way to becoming a household name.
A study on GSU rival, Appalachian State University, showed that as a school’s athletic program becomes more successful, admissions increase as the school gains more prominence by defeating bigger schools.
At the Mar. 27 press conference to announce GSU’s move to the Sun Belt Conference President Brooks Keel conveyed to the audience that he wanted to make GSU a nationally recognized research institution.
“Our job is to put our institution on a bigger platform so that we can begin to talk about the great academic things that are done on this campus,” Keel said at the press conference.
Wilcox will compete for a starting job with the Cowboys and subsequently the Eagles will look to increase recognition of its athletes.
“Our student-athletes deserve to perform on a national stage to compete on a national stage,” Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein said at the press conference.
The Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears have each added a former GSU football player to their rosters with the additions of Wilcox at safety, defensive back Darius Eubanks and defensive lineman Brent Russell respectively.
“With what we accomplished as a team, and with three players signing with NFL teams, there are big things in the future for Georgia Southern,” Russell said in a news release.
Being taken in the third round made Wilcox the highest-ever NFL draftee in GSU history. After converting to safety from running back, Wilcox was second overall in total tackles for GSU last season, adding two interceptions and three pass breakups during the 2012 season.
Similar to his former teammate, at 6’2 and 220 pounds Eubanks transitioned from linebacker to safety for the 2012 season. Although he was not drafted like Wilcox, Eubanks, who was signed as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft, is elated to have the opportunity to earn a spot on the Vikings’ roster.
“I am very excited to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings organization, and I can’t wait to get up there and prove myself,” Eubanks said in a news release.
As an Eagle, Eubanks was third on the team in tackles with 77 and was tied with two other players for most passes broken up with seven last season. Eubanks ranks sixth all-time on the Eagles’ career list for fumbles forced.
The 2011 Southern Conference defensive player of the year and four-time All-American Russell signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent. When his career came to an end as an Eagle, Russell finished as GSU’s all-time sacks leader with 25.