Five Zips Sign NFL Rookie Free Agent Contracts
AKRON, Ohio— Five Akron Zips— DB Larry Hope (Miami Dolphins), WR Jerome Lane (Indianapolis Colts), DE Jamal Marcus (Cleveland Browns), WR JoJo Natson (Indianapolis Colts), and DT Se'Von Pitman (Tampa Bay)—have signed as rookie free agents with NFL teams. The class of five is the largest during UA head coach Terry Bowden's tenure. Hope (Miami, Fla.) played two seasons at Akron after transferring from Miami. As a senior last fall, he played in 11 games with 10 starts at cornerback. Hope finished with 48 tackles, eight break-ups, and an interception. Named the Most Improved defensive player following spring 2016 drills, Hope played in 11 games as a junior in 2015, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Lane (Akron, Ohio), who completed his junior season in 2016, decided to forego his final year of eligibility in order to enter the NFL Draft. The third-team All-MAC honoree was one of just seven Zips to start all 12 games in 2016. Lane was Akron's leading receiver with 1,018 yards and six touchdowns on 62 receptions. He had five 100-yard receiving performances in his collegiate career, including four last season. Lane played linebacker as a freshman (2014) and transitioned into a receiver in 2015. He attended the NFL Combine in March. Marcus (Durham, N.C.) transferred to Akron from Ohio State after two years. A third-team All-MAC selection, he was a two-year starter for the Zips. As a senior, Marcus played in seven games with four starts at defensive end before suffering a mid-season injury. He finished with 16 tackles, a team-best 6.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks, three hurries, and a forced fumble. As a junior, Marcus played in 11 games with 10 starts. He had 30 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, a team-best 10 hurries, a force fumble, and a fumble recovery. Natson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) was named the team's outstanding offensive performer and special teams player of the year following the 2016 season. A first-team All-MAC selection at punt returner and a second-team All-MAC pick at wide receiver, Natson appeared in all 12 games with 11 starts. The Zips' leading scorer with 12 touchdowns for 72 points, he finished second in receiving with 59 receptions for 837 yards and a team-best 10 touchdowns. On special
teams, Natson had 16 punt returns for 261 yards and two touchdowns. At No. 10 Wisconsin, Natson put Akron on the scoreboard with a 55-yard return for a touchdown, UA's first PR for a touchdown since 2004 en route to MAC Specialist of the Week honors. Pittman (Akron, Ohio), who transferred to Akron after redshirting at OSU as a true freshman, was a four-year starter for the Zips. As a senior in 2016, Pittman played in 11 games with 10 starts at defensive end. He finished with 25 tackles and two hurries. As a junior, Pittman played in all 13 games with 12 starts. He had 36 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, three hurries, two forced fumbles, and two break-ups on the season. As a member of Akron's Fantastic Four, he combined for a 92.9 rushing defense which ranked first in the MAC and No. 3 nationally.