Wildcats in the NFL: Former football stars impress during NFL preseason

Duke Shelley blocks a Cowboys player during the K-State football game against Oklahoma State in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 13, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Cowboys 31-12. (Archive photo by Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

Skylar Thompson

Skylar Thompson completed seven of ten passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s 48-10 preseason finale victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 27. Thompson concluded the preseason with over 500 yards passing, five touchdown passes and zero turnovers. Thompson’s passer rating of 138.77 with a 77 completion percentage also clearly impressed the Dolphins as he made the team’s 53-man roster.

Duke Shelley

Duke Shelley recorded three tackles and a pass breakup in preseason play. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by Chicago, Shelley has recorded four pass breakups and 52 career tackles in three seasons with the Bears. He totaled a career-high 36 tackles in 2021, showing improvement as a professional. Shelley made the 53-man roster but was cut after the Bears picked up six players on waivers on Wednesday. Shelley now has the opportunity to go to another team.

Timothy Horne

The Wadesboro, North Carolina, native transferred to Kansas State last season after four seasons playing for North Carolina at Charlotte. He was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in May 2022. In the Falcons’ final preseason game, he deflected two passes and recorded two tackles in an Atlanta victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Aug. 30, 2022 the Falcons announced that Horne made the final 53-man roster.

Russ Yeast

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, Yeast made the Rams 53-man roster. Rams head coach, Sean McVay, has said he believes Yeast will be a contributor to the team this season. In the preseason, the versatile safety recorded two tackles. 

Jordan Willis

Jordan Willis bounced around the NFL after being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017, playing for two different teams before landing in San Francisco in 2020. In 2021, Willis had his best season with the 49ers, recording a career-high three sacks as a reserve and a total of 15 tackles, the third-highest in his career. In the postseason, Willis blocked a Green Bay punt that was returned for a touchdown in a San Francisco victory. In the offseason, the 49ers rewarded Willis with a one-year contract extension.

In the preseason, he continued to show flashes of potential, recording a sack and three tackles for San Francisco. Willis did not make the initial 53-man roster but San Francisco re-signed him.

Cody Whitehair

The veteran lineman enters his seventh NFL season as the longest-tenured player on the Chicago Bears offensive line, which includes 2021 draft picks Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. Whitehair has been a consistent starter since he was selected in the second round by the Bears in 2016. He has started over 90 games at guard and center.

The Abilene native started for four years at K-State as a guard and tackle. He was also a Pro Bowler in 2018, and a Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team member in 2016 for Chicago.