Seven more seniors from Vanderbilt's Camping World Independence Bowl squad are getting an opportunity to chase dreams of playing in the National Football League.
Two Commodore defenders, defensive lineman Adam Butler and cornerback Torren McGaster, are expected to sign undrafted rookie free agent deals with New England and Cincinnati, respectively. Five more former standouts have been invited to rookie tryouts next week: defensive lineman Torey Agee, Tampa Bay; receiver/returner Darrius Sims and linebacker Ja'karri Thomas, both to Tennessee; center Barrett Gouger, New York Jets; and offensive lineman Andrew Jelks, New England.
The seven will look to follow a similar path into the NFL as former Commodore center Spencer Pulley, who went from undrafted free agent a year ago to appearing in all 16 regular season games for the San Diego Chargers.
Two additional teammates, linebacker Zach Cunningham and offensive tackle Will Holden, were selected in the NFL Draft last weekend. Cunningham, the unanimous All-American from Pinson, Ala., went 57th overall in the second round to Houston. Holden, a Coaches' All-Southeastern Conference pick, was taken 157th overall in the fifth round by Arizona.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason believes the former Commodores can earn their way onto NFL rosters.
"You see it every year, guys making the most of their opportunities," Mason said. "A year ago, we saw Spencer (Pulley), Darreon (Herring), Steven (Scheu) and Andrew (Williamson) make preseason rosters based on their minicamp production. I look forward to seeing these guys do the same."
Butler, from Duncanville, Texas, started 31 games on the Commodore defensive front, accumulating 28 tackles for loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks among 102 total stops. As a senior, he had four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss -- all coming against SEC competition.
McGaster, from Daphne, Ala., started 34 games at cornerback, finishing his career with three interceptions, 28 passes defended and 135 solo tackles. As a senior, he had 56 tackles, an interception, 10 passes defended and two fumble recoveries.
Gouger, from Soddy Daisy, Tenn., enjoyed his best season as a senior, solidifying the Commodore offensive front by starting all 13 games. He played a big role in the team's improved offensive production and was a primary blocker in running back Ralph Webb setting new single-season and career rushing records.
Jelks, from Paris, Tenn., was one of Vanderbilt's top offensive linemen as a freshman and sophomore in 2013-14, but missed all of the last two seasons due to injury. A 2013 Freshman All-America tackle, Jelks remained an inspirational leader for the Commodores while injured and was named one of four postseason team captains.
Sims, from Memphis, Tenn., became the team's all-time leading kick returner while contributing as a versatile receiver/running back. As a senior, he averaged 27.0 yards as a returner, the highest single-season average by a Commodore in six decades. He also contributed 271 rushing yards.
Thomas, from Tallahassee, Fla., produced his best year as a senior. Earning seven starts at inside linebacker, Thomas posted single-season highs with 31 solo stops, 59 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Agee, from Opelika, Ala, made 38 appearances for the Commodores, playing both defensive end and tackle. He finished his career with two quarterback sacks among 34 tackles.