Kennard Backman

UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

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For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

UAB players partake in pro day event at Samford

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The future outlook of UAB football may or may not change after the school shut down the program at the conclusion of the 2014 season, but Tuesday was one final opportunity for some UAB football players to come together one more time. A small handful of Blazers football players — wide receiver J.J. Nelson, defensive end Diaheem Watkins, tight end Kennard Backman and kicker Ty Long — took part in a pro day event in front of NFL scouts at Samford University, hoping to catch the eye of the NFL.

“One of things we talked about was competing everyday,” said former UAB coach Bill Clark, said to Al.com. “I’ve had two or three different trainers come up to me and say, ‘Coach, your guys are some of the best I’ve been around’ and that’s what I want to hear.

Nelson was invited to participate in the recent NFL Scouting Combine. He recorded the fastest time in the 40-yard dash. He has to be on some team’s radar.

It is not uncommon for pro day events to include players from multiple schools. While programs like Alabama and Oregon and Ohio State and other power programs from power conferences typically hold their own pro day events, many smaller schools organize additional scouting opportunities for a collective group of players within a short drive’s radius. In addition to the UAB players on hand, players from Samford and Division 2 Miles College took part in the event.