The 2021 NFL season is upon us. The Super Bowl Champs in Tampa host the Dallas Cwboys to kick off the season Thursday night, and thus kick off another season of Gophers in the NFL. There are many former Minnesota Gophers on initial 53-man active NFL rosters heading into Week 1, with a few more lurking on either injured reserve or practice squads ready to jump in when their time is right. So here is a look at who is on which team as we kick off another NFL season!
Maxx Williams— Tight End— Arizona Cardinals
Week 1 @ Tennessee Titans
Maxx is back for his seventh NFL season and his third in the Valley of the Sun. Williams is slated to start at tight end for the Cardinals in a role that will primarily have him blocking for Chase Edmunds and Kyler Murray, but will occasionally let him catch a pass from Murray. Hopefully this is the year Maxx can stay healthy and actually play a full season as well.
Chris Streveler—Quarterback—Arizona Cardinals
Week 1 @ Tennessee Titans
Streveler saw a lot more action than anyone expected last season as he ended up backing up Kyler Murray and actually had a chance to get Arizona in the playoffs in Week 17 when Murray was hurt....it didn’t work out. Streveler is currently slated to be the #3 quarterback for the Cardinals this season with Colt McCoy taking over the backup spot, but we shall see what happens.
Eric Murray-Safety Houston Texans
Week 1 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Murray is back in Houston and is slated to start at strong safety for the Texans. He did not have a great 2020 season including missing the end of the year due to testing positive for COVID.
Damien Wilson—Linebacker—Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 1 @ Houston Texans
Damien Wilson left Kansas City after two season with the Chiefs and a Super Bowl and in the offseason signed with....Jacksonville. Not the most exciting place in the world but Wilson is looking for more playing time then he was getting with KC and should have it as he is slated to start at middle linebacker for the Jags against his former teammate’s Texans squad week 1.
De’Vondre Campbell—Linebacker—Green Bay Packers
Week 1 @ New Orleans Saints—in Jacksonville
After a lackluster season in Arizona, De’Vondre Campbell signed with the Packers in June and is slated to start for them at linebacker when they open the season agaisnt the Saints on Sunday. The downfall to Campbell in Green Bay is he was one of the reasons that fellow ex-Gopher Kamal Martin was released by the Packers during training camp this fall.
Blake Cashman—Linebacker—New York Jets
Week 1 @ Carolina Panthers
Cashman is back from a injury plagued 2020 season that saw him end up on injured reserve twice last year, once with a concussion and once with a season ending hamstring injury. Cashman will need to work his way back into a Jets lineup where he started games in 2019, but will most likely start out on special teams as a second string linebacker to start 2021.
Ryan Santoso —Kicker—Carolina Panthers
Week 1 vs New York Jets
It will be another matchup between ex-Gopher teammates in week 1 as Ryan Santoso and the Carolina Panthers will face off against the Jets. Santoso nearly started a game for the New York Giants last season, but did not play in the one week he was activated from the practice squad. He looked good in camp this fall and Carolina acquired him from the Giants for a 7th round pick. Santoso then beat out incumbent kicker Joey Slye in Carolina and won the kicking job and will start regularly for an NFL team for the first time in his career.
Week 1 vs Dallas Cowboys
Well what can you say about Antoine Winfield Jr’s rookie season that hasn’t been said. Despite getting screwed out of DROY honors by Chase Young, Winfeld and the rest of his Bucs squad got the last laugh and won the Super Bowl. To the champion go the spoils and the traditional Thursday night opener with the Cowboys in town. Winfield once again will be one of the best young DV’s in the NFL this season.
Week 1 vs Dallas Cowboys
Year two of Tyler Johnson in Tampa and he is right back where he was a year ago. Tampa returned all of it’s wide out talent in the offseason and thus Johnson is still stuck behind Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and fighting with Scottie Miller for snaps. Hopefully he can break out and prove his worth at some point this season.
Week 1 vs Denver Broncos
Coughlin is back for year two in the Big Apple and will look to earn more playing time then he did a year ago. It won’t be easy as Coughlin was moved from the rush end spot he played at Minnesota and in his rookie season back to inside linebacker with the Giants this fall and finds himself buried down the depth chart a bit. It may need to be special teams where Coughlin makes his presence known.
Benjamin St. Juste—CB—Washington Football Team
Week 1 vs Los Angeles Chargers
St. Juste will be the first Gopher rookie this season to see NFL action as the 3rd round pick has a great fall camp with Washington and will be a backup cornerback to start the season. St. Juste will see some time on special teams and could see some nickel CB reps as well for WFT.
Benjamin St. Juste says training camp was all about earning the trust of Washington's coaches. He feels he's earned it, and I'd say he has. He will play lots vs Chargers— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) September 6, 2021
Minnesota’s other 2021 NFL Rookie will star the season on IR
Rashod Bateman—WR—Baltimore Ravens
Bateman had looked good in fall camp for the Ravens before injuring his groin in mid-August. He had a surgical procedure on his groin and it appeared to go well. Bateman was placed on IR by Baltimore and he is able to be added back onto the active roster after Week 3.
A trio of former Gophers are on practice squads to start the 2021 season:
Smith saw a decent amount of playing time for the Panthers at the end of the 2020 season due to injuries to other running backs. He even scored his first NFL touchdown in week 17 a year ago. However Christian McCaffery is back healthy and Carolina drafted Chubba Hubbard in the offseason and Smith ended up being one of the final cuts for Carolina, but was added to their practice squad.
Chris Williamson-DB—Atlanta Falcons
Williamson spent a majority of the season last year on the Giant’s practice squad after the 7th round pick was cut after fall camp. The Giants cut him lose in December and Williamson signed with the Falcons on their practice squad. He was once again cut in fall camp this season and resigned to the Falcons practice squad to start the year.
Briean Boddy Calhoun—DB—Tennessee Titans
BBC is back on a NFL practice squad this season after bouncing around in 2020. He went from the Colts to the 49ers before they cut him in June. He signed with Tennessee in July and was cut after fall camp but signed to their practice squad.
Four other former Gophers spent time in NFL camps this fall but were cut and are not currently a member of any organizations:
Kamal Martin played some for Green Bay last season after missing the start to the season with a knee injury, but was cut in camp this fall. It sounds like his knee is just not 100%.
Jon Celestin signed in July with the Carolina Panthers and competed in fall camp but was cut in the final cuts in August and was not signed to a practice squad
Kiondre Thomas began camp with the Cleveland Browns but was one of the first cuts in early August from the roster and is not currently on a roster.
Sam Renner started out camp with the Buccaneers in July but was one of the first players waived with an injury designation.
Good luck to all of the ex-Gophers as the NFL season begins Thursday night!