Photo via URI Athletics

Sometime between next Thursday and Saturday, when the National Football League holds its 2020 draft in what is a most bizarre year, you’ll possibly hear something just as bizarre – a player or two or three selected from the University of Rhode Island, a team that plays in college’s second tier – the FCS – and one that has seen very little success over the last 35 years.

This past year was no exception. The Rams finished with a record of 2 wins and 10 losses, and didn’t win a game in its league, the Colonial Athletic Association.

Yet, three of its players are ranked among the most coveted FCS entrants into the NFL draft this year – wide receivers Isaiah Coulter and Aaron Parker, and offensive guard Kyle Murphy. The three prospects are listed by Draft Source as among the top 20 FCS -players entering this year’s draft.

The last URI Ram selected in the NFL draft was Bob White, a center-guard, who was drafted in 1986 by the New York Jets and played for one season in the NFL Several other URI grads have made it to the NFL, either as draft choices or free agents. The most successful was Steve Furness, a defensive tackle/end drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round in 1972. 

Furness went on to play in the NFL for 10 years, all but one with the Steelers, and was part of the vaunted Steel Curtain, among the most feared defensive lines in the history of football. Furness, who would serve as a sub and starter during various parts of his career, played alongside the likes of “Mean” Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White.

Coulter, Parker and Murphy hope that they too can achieve success in a sport that is incredibly demanding. Each has done enough in college, and workouts before pro scouts, to gain considerable attention. Undoubtedly, they will either be drafted in later rounds of the seven round draft or signed soon after as free agent rookies.

Here’s a look at each of the prospects.

The six-foot three-inch, 198-pound Coulter is only one of two underclassmen in the FCS who received early entry into the NFL draft. The other was Monmouth University running back Pete Guerriero. Coulter was a second team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection in 2019. He is projected by Draft Scout to go as high as the third or fourth round.

Parker is a six-foot two-inch, 209-pound wide receiver who this past year was a second team Associated Press FCS All-American and first-team All Colonial Athletic Conference selection. Draft Scout projects Parker to be selected in the seventh round.

The six-foot three-inch, 316-pound Murphy is seen as an offensive guard prospect in the NFL. At URI he played tackle, where was selected in 2019 to the second team Associated Press All-American team, and first-team All-Colonial Conference. As a junior in 2018, he was first team all-conference. During his college career he has played mostly tackle, some at guard, and one game at center. He’s projected to be drafted in the seventh round, or signed as a free agent soon after the draft ends.