Zips alumni in the NFL

By Dante Rones

Dante Rones

The Former Akron Zips inside linebacker Chase Blackburn has a new home in the NFL. He was signed by the New York Giants in 2005 as an undrafted free agent.

During his eight years with the Giants, Blackburn recorded 334 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions. In Super Bowl XLII, Blackburn had a costly penalty on special teams–being the 12th man on the field–which ended up as a first down for the Patriots whom were unable to turn that into a score. The end result was that the Giants won 17-14, and Blackburn avoided blame.

In 2010, Blackburn was elected team captain by his teammates. In week 13, he intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers in the end zone, which helped the Giants make it to the playoffs that year. In Super Bowl XLVI that same season, Blackburn intercepted a pass from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter, which was a huge turnover in the game that resulted in the Giants winning. He also had six tackles in the game.

This might make you wonder why he would have a new home in the NFL. Is he not worth big money? Or was it just his time to go?

Why get rid of a player that brings so much to the table? Though there has been no real answer to this question, the Carolina Panthers signed Blackburn.

The Panthers signed Blackburn to a two-year deal worth $2.05 million with a $200,000 signing bonus. He brings experience to an inexperienced squad and will serve as insurance for the injury-prone Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. The Panthers also hope that he will bring a spark to their lackluster special teams group.

Domenik Hixon, a former wide receiver for the Akron Zips, has also found a new home. Hixon, who is from Columbus, Ohio, played college football for the Akron Zips when they won their one and only MAC Championship in football. Hixon caught the game-winning Hail Mary pass from then-quarterback Luke Getsy.

He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2007 in the fourth round. Denver cut him in October of that year and the Giants signed him and put him on special teams. He was a vital piece of the Giants’ Super Bowl runs because he put them in good field position and sometimes would take a punt/kick return all the way to the house.

During his time on the Giants, he got the chance to start when Plaxico Burress was going through legal troubles. In his career he has had 102 receptions, 1,405 receiving yards, 2,563 returning yards and a total of eight touchdowns (special teams and receiving touchdowns). The Carolina Panthers saw something in him and signed him to a one-year contract. The contract is worth $659,805, with no money guaranteed and no signing bonus.

What does Hixon bring to the Panthers? He brings experience. The Panthers only have Steve Smith to count on, and Hixon is better than players Louis Murphy and Brandon Lafell.

Hixon will be able to fight for that number two slot. Hixon is also a great return man, and he will be able to make a spark and surge to the Panthers’ lackluster special teams group.