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May 31, 2013

Boilers looking for NFL shot

Akeem Shavers is aware of the Boilermakers' history in New England, where former Purdue players have regularly played - and won Super Bowls - for the last decade-plus.

So when he arrived in Foxboro earlier this month, the two current former Boilers there - Rob Ninkovich and Niko Koutouvides - rolled out the red carpet. Or, if not that, they at least provided some sort of initiation.

"They welcomed me in pretty good," Shavers said laughing. "It wasn't bad, we just shared memories about Purdue and what they did, how their careers went and I told them mine. It was good to have someone up here from Purdue."

After a brief stint in Tampa Bay, where he went through a rookie mini camp before being waived, Shavers is feeling good about his opportunity with the Patriots. The running back is one of several Purdue rookie free agents taking part in spring OTAs, joined by Josh Johnson (San Diego), Caleb TerBush (Arizona), Robert Maci (Detroit) and Rick Schmeig (Indianapolis). Purdue's only drafted player, defensive tackle Kawann Short, recently signed his contract with Carolina, valued at four-year, $4.63-million, with a $1.75-million signing bonus, according to the Charlotte Observer, which cites a league source.

Like Short, a second-round pick, Johnson thought he'd be selected in April's draft. But when he wasn't among the top-seven rounds of players, it didn't take him long to find a home.

The cornerback says opportunities started to arise during the last round of the draft, with several teams calling.

"I had some teams saying 'If you don't get picked it'll be surprising, you'll probably go in the next few selections.' So I was planning on getting picked, but I had teams calling me during the process and saying that I could come there (if not drafted)," Johnson said. "I ended up choosing San Diego because both of their corners were gone and I have a chance to go out there and help rebuild the secondary. That's why I came.

"Of course, every guy's dream is to get drafted. But with all your family there (at a draft party), you tell them the good news that you have a job. When I told my family I was going to San Diego, everybody was proud, we had a good time. Then, when I got here it was all business. I'm just excited about the situation I'm in."

But Johnson says he was happy to have options too. He looked at Chicago, but with Peanut Tillman and Tim Jennings entrenched as starters there, he decided elsewhere might be a better choice. In San Diego, where former starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason left via free agency, Johnson feels he could make the fall's 53-man roster.

"You go off the depth chart and look and see what kind of depth every team has," he said. "… (In Chicago), you might sit for a while before you have a chance, or you could go somewhere where the spot is open and you could play, even if it's special teams. Then, you also go by weather and type of team, whether they have a winning background. I picked San Diego because they didn't really have a lot of corners, so I thought there'd be a better chance of me to step in."

Shavers' first choice was Tampa Bay, where he signed a contract shortly after going undrafted. But Shavers' stay was short-lived; he was waived after the mini-camp, but his time as a free agent was equally quick. A couple days later, he was picked up by the Patriots.

"I was more confused because I didn't think I did anything wrong," Shavers said of the Bucs' release. "The coaches liked me and I had a good mini-camp.

"It was crazy, a very big nerve-wracking moment, but I just figured it wasn't the end for me. I wasn't going to let that determine how people view me and how my career went. I wasn't going to stop it from letting me reach my dreams."

Shavers could have a good chance with the Patriots. He's one of seven running backs currently on the roster, although none of the others would be considered established. And only special teamer Leon Washington has more than four years of experience.

"It'll be a blessing," Shavers said of potentially making the Pats' roster. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get better every day and make a roster when the time comes."

Johnson might have a shot, too. He's one of eight cornerbacks on the Chargers' roster right now, but six are rookies. Spots are available and he's looking forward to training camp to be able to fully prove worthy.

"You finally get to put on pads, even though it might not be all full-tackle, but you get some thud period and one-on-one, so you can show coaches you can tackle and make plays, as well as being a cover corner and a tackling corner," he said. "Really, I want to show that I have ability to play on this high level and be able to guard some of the best receivers out there."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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