Holy Cross has trio sign NFL contracts

Tom Pugh still can't believe it.

After three of his former Holy Cross players signed contracts as undrafted free agents this past weekend, the Knights could possibly have four players in the NFL this upcoming season.

"I've never heard of it," said Pugh, who will coach his 40th year this fall. "Maybe at a place like Mater Dei in California, but not at a small high school in Queens. It's huge."

Former Holy Cross players Michael Hay, Darryl Whiting and Jaquan Bryant each signed contracts with teams in hope of making the league. Hay signed with St. Louis, Bryant with Oakland and Whiting with Tennessee. If they can make the final roster, they could join former teammate Kevin Ogletree, a Dallas receiver, in the league.

"It's a big day and it was a lot of fun," Pugh said. "It's very exciting, especially for the program."

Hay, Whiting and Bryant were all key components of Holy Cross in the 2006-07 seasons and all took different paths to signing their contracts. They're hoping they can follow Ogletree's footsteps, as he worked his way onto Dallas' roster despite being undrafted.

Hay, who attended Syracuse, nearly saw his NFL dreams get dashed a few years ago as he was stabbed in College Point. Pugh said Hay was told that he would probably not play again but the offensive lineman didn't let that hold him down. He transferred from C.W. Post to Nassau Community College and then landed with the Orange.

"Michael was the captain for us and a leader and a very physical football player," Pugh said. "He has a lot of heart. He wanted to play. He was a teammate, just a real teammate. He enjoyed everybody and he was a guy that never worried about himself. He's a leader."

Whiting, who made a name for himself locally at Fordham, was 6-3 and 170 pounds at Holy Cross and has now bulked up to 240 pounds, Pugh said. He was a quiet, rule-abiding player who played hard and won respect from the coaches. Whiting rushed for 668 yards last year.

"He just did his job and worked so hard," Pugh said. "He got along with everybody. He could catch the ball and he could run the ball. I think it was the only time in my 40 years that I ever had a running back that was so tall."

Bryant, from Marist, played corner for the Red Foxes. Pugh remembers Bryant for his ability to cover any player in the Catholic High School Football League, something he brought with him to Marist. He had 47 total tackles and four interceptions last year.

"You just saw him make all these players," Bryant said. "He had a big year."

Feeling good about seeing some of his former players have a big weekend, Pugh joked that he used this historic weekend for his school as a negotiating ploy.

"I asked for a raise," Pugh said with a laugh.