Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

NFL Draft 2023: Former Huskers Sign Undrafted Free Agent Deals

April 29, 2023

The 2023 NFL Draft ended with two former Huskers selected: Ochaun Mathis and Trey Palmer. The two were selected just one pick apart, Mathis to the Los Angeles Rams with the 189th pick and Palmer to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 191st overall pick, in the sixth round.

Now that the draft has officially ended, news about undrafted free agent deals is coming to light. Teams are able to signs as many UDFAs as they wish, as long as they stay on or below the 90-man offseason roster size. That means we’re likely to see a lot of movement as undrafted players pick the next best step in their careers.

Where are the former Huskers headed? Find out in our running list below.

DE Garrett Nelson

Another homegrown Husker is off to the NFL and Garrett Nelson’s professional football dream lives on.

The Scottsbluff native, son of a Husker wrestler who became a team captain football player, signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins after going undrafted on Saturday.

Nelson is headed to the NFL despite not receiving an invitation to the NFL Combine. He competed in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl during the cycle of collegiate all-star games.

In four years at Nebraska, Nelson tallied 167 tackles (80 solo, 87 assisted), 26 TFLs and 12 sacks. He posted career highs in tackles (65) and sacks (5.5) last season. He finished second-team all-Big Ten by both coaches and media in 2022.

Nelson declared his intent to enter the NFL Draft and forgo a final year of collegiate eligibility on December 27. In his message he thanked his coaches, staffers teammates and fans.

“To the fans of Nebraska, you have shown me an overwhelming amount of support and love,” he wrote in his statement. “From saying hello on the street to letters, messages, hand shakes and kind words. No matter how big or small of gesture, all of you have a special place in my heart forever.”

The edge rusher ended his career at Nebraska with 32 consecutive starts. The final 12 of them came as a team captain.

Nelson did every drill at Nebraska’s Pro Day. Those metrics weren’t released afterwards, except for his 9-foot-7 broad jump.

TE Travis Vokolek

Another Nebraska tight end is getting an NFL opportunity. Travis Vokolek went undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft but was chosen by the Baltimore Ravens as a priority free agent shortly after the draft’s conclusion.

The Springfield, Missouri, native sat out the 2019 season after transferring from Rutgers. During that year he won Offensive Scout Team MVP honors. He caught 40 passes in 27 games across three seasons in Lincoln. Those went for 458 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns came last season, one at Rutgers against his former team and the other against Illinois.

“Travis made a lot of big catches and plays for us early on and his presence out there, his leadership his height over the middle definitely helps a lot,” former Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson said after the season-opening loss in Ireland last season. “His catch radius with his long arms definitely helps for sure.”

NFL scouts like Vokolek’s size for NFL development. Scouts also pointed to his hand strength, which will have to improve at the next level in order to block NFL edge rushers.

Vokolek follows in the footsteps of Austin Allen, the tight end and close friend he learned from while in Lincoln. Allen went undrafted last season but was quickly signed by the New York Giants. The Giants released him in October and the Green Bay Packers signed him in January.

DE Caleb Tannor

Caleb Tannor is getting a chance to prove himself in the NFL. The former Nebraska edge rusher was signed by New York Jets on Saturday after going undrafted.

The edge rusher from Stone Mountain, Georgia, holds the program record for games appeared after playing in all 56 games of his collegiate career. Across those 56 games, Tanner made 126 tackles, including a career-high 43 as a team captain in 2022. Tannor also set or tied career highs in TFL (6.0) and sacks (2.5) last season.

Tanner did not receive an invitation to the NFL Draft or any collegiate all-star games. Instead, the focused solely on Nebraska’s Pro Day, where he worked out for representatives from every NFL franchise.

Teammates complimented Tannor’s growth throughout his career, eventually becoming one of the team’s captains last season. He arrived in Lincoln as a 4-star recruit in the 2018 class who was once committed to Georgia.

LB Chris Kolarevic

Traverse City, Michigan, native Chris Kolarevic will get a chance at the NFL. The former Husker linebacker received a rookie minicamp invitation from the Chicago Bears. Kolarevic also earned a tryout minicamp invitation from the New Orleans Saints.

Kolarevic played in every game across two seasons in Lincoln, finishing with 60 total tackles. His only interception as a Husker came in the final game with the game-clinching pick against Iowa in November.

Kolarevic stood out in two seasons at Northern Iowa before arriving in Lincoln. There he made 144 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks and two interceptions.

WR Oliver Martin

Journeyman receiver Oliver Martin is making at least one more stop on his football journey. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed the former Husker on Sunday after he went undrafted.

Martin played in 25 games as a Husker, making 26 catches for 428 yards and two touchdowns in that time.

Originally from Coralville, Iowa, Martin set school records in football and swimming for Iowa City West High. He signed with Michigan and played in 13 games as a redshirt sophomore. He transferred to Iowa where he had five catches and a touchdown in five games.

Martin stood out at Nebraska’s Pro Day for his 4.53 40 time and his 11 foot, 2 inch broad jump.

LS Brady Weas

Former Nebraska long snapper Brady Weas was signed by the Houston Texans on Saturday, following the 2023 NFL Draft.

Weas snapped on Nebraska’s punts all season. He played on the defensive line at Georgetown before transferring to Nebraska ahead of the 2022 season. Weas played in 31 games for the Hoyas with 11 tackles. He also made two tackles as a Husker.

QB Adrian Martinez

A record-holding Nebraska quarterback is off to the NFL. Former Husker Adrian Martinez, who spent four seasons under center in Lincoln, signed with the Detroit Lions as a priority free agent.

Martinez was previously selected by the New Jersey Generals in the United States Football League Draft. He can pursue his NFL career or choose to play in the USFL, where New Jersey and former Nebraska head coach Mike Riley maintain his rights.

Martinez holds program records at Nebraska for career total offensive yards (10,792), total offensive yards per game (276.7), 300-yard games (19), 400-yard games (five), 250-yard passing games (16), total offensive yards per game in one season (308.0 in 2021), completion percentage in a season (71.5 in 2020), 300-yard total offense games in a season (seven in 2018) and 400-yard total offense games in a season (three in 2018). He also holds freshman program records in completions (224), completion percentage (64.6%), passing yards (2,617), total offensive yards (3,246), passing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (25).

The Fresno, California, native played in 39 games for the Huskers before transferring to Kansas State after the 2021 season. In those 39 games he scored 80 touchdowns (45 passing, 35 rushing).

“He’s done a ton of really good things at the University of Nebraska,” former head coach Scott Frost said of Martinez. “Sometimes it’s been great, sometimes it hasn’t. But I admire and respect him, and he and I’ve been battling through a lot together, and I just appreciate who he is.”

At Kansas State, Martinez started nine of his 10 appearances. He finished 118 of 184 for 1,261 yards with six touchdowns and an interception through the air for the Wildcats in 2022. He added 627 rushing yards on 111 carries with 10 touchdowns.

His showing at Oklahoma helped the eventual Big 12 Champions on their trajectory. Weeks after the Sooners claimed a one-sided victory in Memorial Stadium, Martinez threw for 234 yards (21 of 34), ran for 148 yards on 21 carries and accounted for five all-purpose touchdowns.

Despite finishing the season injured, Martinez came back at the Hulu Bowl and Kansas State’s Pro Day to show his throwing arm and mobility. He posted a 4.55 40, a 4.21 shuttle, a 9-foot-7 broad jump and a 36-inch vertical at Pro Day.

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