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Four alums fight their way onto NFL practice squads

It's fourth-and-goal. You're down by five with just 10 seconds left on the clock. Eleven enormous and entirely imaginary men stand between you and the freshly raked pile of leaves signifying your makeshift end zone. Super Bowl glory is yours for the taking.

It is a childhood dream common in this football-crazed country. From city streets to suburban backyards, rural farms to vacated lots, children dream of one day donning an NFL uniform. Most never get the chance — they are too clumsy, too small or too slow to make the leap from backyard believer to weekend warrior. But for four members of Brown's 2010 team, the dream hasn't died.

As members of what Bobby Sewall '10 hopes will be remembered as "one of the most talented football classes to ever graduate from Brown," four former Bear standouts — Sewall, James Develin '10, David Howard '09.5 and Buddy Farnham '10 — are all getting shots in the big leagues.

"Making that team was the best moment of my life," said Develin, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad. "It was pouring down rain, I was sleepy, tired and sore, but I've never felt better."

"It really was a great feeling," said Sewall, a practice squad wide receiver on the Tennessee Titans. "I was honestly just excited to get a call and show them what I could do."

But their transitions to the NFL have been far from smooth.

After signing with the Titans, Sewall, a former first team All-Ivy receiver, was released by the club during final cuts before the season began. Since then, he has been working out with several teams, trying to find a home. But thanks to ongoing NFL labor disagreements, Sewall said he has received less interest than he hoped.

"With this (collective bargaining agreement) issue comes complications for guys like me who don't have a team because teams are reluctant to sign anybody in case there is a lockout," Sewall said. "The best thing I can do, though, is keep working hard, keep staying in shape and go out there and show the teams that are giving me tryouts what I've got to offer."

Still, Sewall said he remains optimistic.

If an agreement is reached, "I definitely think I can sign somewhere," he said. "I've just got to keep working my butt off."

Howard was in a similar position after he was cut by the Titans in September, despite being selected by the team in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft. But Howard then impressed coaches for the Oakland Raiders, a team that had shown pre-draft interest in him. The team offered him a spot on its practice squad last December, and he has been with the Raiders ever since.

But of the four, the most unconventional route to the NFL was Develin's.

"I went through the (Arena Football League) and (United Football League) and even changed my position to make it to the NFL," said the defensive tackle-turned-fullback. "The process really humbled me and showed me how much work it takes. It helped me appreciate Cincinnati's offer more once I finally got it."

The day after Develin's United Football League team, the Florida Tuskers, lost in the championship game in late November, Develin was called for a tryout with the Bengals.

Though Farnham was undrafted out of Brown, his path to the NFL has been the simplest. After receiving a tryout from his hometown New England Patriots in the summer, Farnham was cut by the team only to be resigned several weeks later. He went on to make the Patriots' practice squad and was also recognized by his coaches as the practice squad player of the week leading up to New England's Week 17 showdown against the Miami Dolphins. He remains on the team's active practice squad roster and said he hopes to earn a spot on the game squad next year.

"Buddy's living the life," Develin said.

"He's playing for the team he rooted for growing up after playing for the college he rooted for growing up," Develin added. "He's just living every kid's dream."


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