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April 28, 2012

Tydlacka, Sneed sign free agent deals

Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan aren't the only former Wildcats who were picked up by NFL teams on Saturday.

Punter Ryan Tydlacka will sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, he confirmed to Cats Illustrated on Saturday night via text message. Middle linebacker Ronnie Sneed will sign with the Detroit Lions, he said in a text message.

Several reports on Saturday evening indicated offensive tackle Chandler Burden had signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans. According to their Twitter accounts, it appeared cornerbacks Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley had signed with the Arizona Cardinals and the San Fransisco 49ers, respectively.

Tydlacka picked the Eagles over offers from Kansas City and Buffalo, he said. He'd been in contact with several teams during the draft process and had spoken several times with Eagles special teams coach Bobby April.

"It was amazing," Tydlacka said in a phone interview with Cats Illustrated. "Going through the process and having it finished and being on a team is great."

His time spent talking with the coaching staff, along with the promise of an open competition at punter, assured Tydlacka that Philadelphia was the right pick.

Tydlacka was one of Kentucky's most productive players in 2011, ranking 19th in the nation with an average of 43.65 yards per punt. His net punting average (yards on punt after a return) of 42.8 was fifth in the country and ranked higher than the regular punting average of 90 other FBS teams.

He'll compete with former Ray Guy Award winner Chas Henry, a two-year NFL veteran, in Philadelphia. He'll report to the team on the weekend of May 12.

Tydlacka spent the day watching the draft with his mother and father in Louisville. He thought he had a chance of being drafted, but was confident he'd sign a free agent deal if he wasn't picked.

"It was awesome," Tydlacka said. "The teams kept saying they wanted me. It was getting kind of stressful going through and making the right choice. When it was done I had a big smile on my face."

Once he and his family decided on Philadelphia, he had his agent call the team back to let them know. His agent turned to him as he hung up the phone. That was the moment he knew he had made it.

"He said 'Welcome to the NFL. You're an Eagle,'" Tydlacka said.

It was a stressful day, Tydlacka said, but he had the advantage of a confidant who knew his situation. He's remained in close contact with former UK punter Tim Masthay, now the punter for the Green Bay Packers.

Masthay wasn't drafted and didn't play in the NFL in his first year our of UK, but eventually caught on. Tydlacka and Masthay work out together in the offseason and now share the same agent.

"It was big. It's good to have Tim and I'm great friends with him," Tydlacka said. "He's always said I had the talent to make it to thrive in the NFL. Hearing those words of confidence was great."

Sneed accepted the offer from the Lions, the first official one he received. It was a low-key day for him as well. He was in California with his fiancé, where he has been working out.

"It was sort of a regular day for me," he said. "I just sat back and watched the draft."

The Lions have five linebackers currently on their roster. They also drafted three, though all of them are considered outside linebackers. At UK, Sneed was tied for third on the team with 71 tackles as a senior. He also had two interceptions.

"I saw they drafted a couple of outside linebackers," he said. "The guys they already have there are good players. But I'm going to come in and compete for the job."

Like Tydlacka, he thought he had an outside chance of being drafted. So he waited patiently through the day, hoping for a phone call. He was stressed at times, but tried to keep his mind off things. He took his son to the playground at one point.

"Everytime my phone rang or I got a text message I thought it was a team," he said. "It would be my grandma or my dad or someone wanting to know what was going on."

He spoke with the Lions' linebackers coach shortly after the draft ended and decided to sign with the team. When he got off the phone with the coach, he realized he had reached the NFL.

"Once the process was actually over, the feeling of being in the NFL was everything I thought it would be," he said.

Sneed had been talking with former UK fullback John Conner for advice during the draft process. The days leading up to the draft were more stressful than he expected, he said. But he was confident he'd end up with the chance he'd been hoping for,

"I'm in the NFL now," Sneed said. "I get the opportunity that I've been working for my entire life."


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