NT's Akunne, Lemon, Johnson Inked To NFL Contracts

Derek Akunne works out for NFL scouts at North Texas pro day
UPDATED: May 3, 2015

North Texas seniors Derek Akunne, Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson signed free-agent contracts this weekend to play in the National Football League.

During the free-agent frenzy following the conclusion of the three-day NFL draft, Akunne inked with the Atlanta Falcons, Lemon signed with the New Orleans Saints, and Johnson signed with the New York Jets.

Akunne, a 6-0, 242-pound linebacker from Garland, led Conference USA in 2014 with 108 tackles, and led North Texas with 8.5 tackles for loss. He was named the team's MVP, and finished his career with 308 tackles and 23 tackles for loss, both of which rank eighth most in school history.

Lemon, a 6-3, 315-pound offensive lineman from Marbles Falls, Texas, was just the fifth player in school history to earn all-conference honors four straight seasons. Lemon made 49 consecutive starts in his four-year career, was named to the Outland and Lombardi Watch List in 2014, and was a two-time first-team All-Conference-USA selection.

Johnson, a 6-5, 302-pound offensive lineman from Diboll, Texas, was a four-year starter at North Texas.

North Texas has sent five players to the NFL in the last four years, all through the same free-agent route that Akunne, Lemon and Johnson are attempting to follow: Brelan Chancellor, Pittsburgh Steelers; Zach Orr, Baltimore Ravens; Lance Dunbar, Dallas Cowboys; Jamize Olawale, Oakland Raiders; and Craig Robertson, Cleveland Browns.

In fact, a dozen former Mean Green players have earned roster spots in the NFL in the last 19 years, and all but one did so as an undrafted free agent. That streak began with Toby Gowin, Brian Waters and John Baker in the 1990s and continued with Brad Kassell, Adrian Awasom and Patrick Cobbs. The last North Texas player to be drafted was Cody Spencer, selected by the Raiders in the sixth round in 2004.



If this year's rookie crop earn roster spots this summer, there could be as many as eight former North Texas football players in the NFL at the same time - the most since the 1970s and early 1980s, on the heels of the NFL drafts from 1968 to 1971 when 18 North Texas players were drafted, including first-round selections in three-straight years.

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