BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind in the Union football office thanks to former Bulldogs Quintin Borders and Armond Smith signing NFL deals as undrafted free agents with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, respectively.
Never had any Bulldog signed a NFL contract before. However, in the span of a few hours on Thursday, Union had not one but two NFL signees.
"Obviously, I'm tickled to death for the both of them," said Union coach Tommy Reid. "I know this has been a dream of both of theirs, and for it to come true is just amazing."
While the end result for both is presently the same, Borders and Smith each had a different path to achieving their NFL dream.
"Quintin was with us all four years," said Reid. "He worked hard from day one and did whatever we asked of him. He was the model student-athlete."
The 6-foot-6 offensive lineman from Lexington, Ky., proved to be a force to be reckon with upon his arrival in Barbourville. A four-time All-Conference First Team selection, Borders made history in 2009 when he was named the Mid-South Conference East Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first offensive lineman to win the award in league history.
The accolades didn't stop there as he earned AFCA NAIA All-American honors in 2009 and 2010.
During his four years anchoring the offensive line, Borders led the way to some amazing offensive production as Union has posted four of the top 10 scoring seasons in program history. The Bulldogs have scored a total of 1,397 total points and averaged 31.75 points per game during Borders' tenure. Last season, the Bulldogs set offensive records for most points in a season (440), most total offensive yards in a season (5,206), most rushing yards in a season (2,904) and most rushing touchdowns in a season (33).
Meanwhile, Smith, a 5-foot-9 running back from Stone Mountain, Ga., had to wait his turn for his chance to shine. But when he got the opportunity, he made the most of it.
"Armond's time with us was a little unusual given the success he turned out to have," said Reid. "He was with us for only two years, and in his first year he was primarily used on special teams."
Smith was not moved to running back until late in the 2009 season, and despite being the team's most improved player in the spring, he was still second on the depth chart at the position at the start of the 2010 campaign.
However, a season-ending injury to Terence Pollock opened the door for Smith, and he seized it.
To say Smith's senior year was one for the record books would be an understatement. Smith set numerous program records including most rushing yards in a game (312), most rushing yards in a season (1,376), most rushing touchdowns in a game (five), most rushing touchdowns in a season (16), most points scored in a game (30) and most points scored in a season (102 - 16 rushing touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown).
"People noticed his speed and ability right away," said Reid. "He really took off, and the numbers speak for themselves."
Smith led the Mid-South Conference in rushing last season, averaging 125.1 yards per game en route to being named MSC West Offensive Player of the Year. He also led all running backs with 16 rushing touchdowns. Smith was MSC Offensive Player of the Week twice during the season and MSC Special Teams Player of the Week once.Smith also landed on the 2010 Victory Sports Network All-American Team.
Because of the signings, there's a buzz around the Bulldog football office, creating excitement and anticipation for the 2011 season.
"We've heard from many of our recruits as well as returning players, talking about Quintin and Armond," said Reid. "They've seen that's it's possible to get your foot in the door from the NAIA, so hopefully, it'll put a little fire in their play. This shows them that it's an attainable goal."
In addition to inspiring the current players, Reid said this will no doubt help in recruiting.
"Any time we take to prospective players and parents, we're always asked if we've had any players sign and make it to the NFL," said Reid. "Now, we can tell 'yes.'
"Regardless of what level you play (in college)," he continued, "the scouts will search big schools and little schools. Quintin and Armond are proof of that."
Reid added the signings will help promote the school as well.
"People look at these rosters and see 'Union College' listed," he said. "A lot of people might not have heard of our school, but now they will."
The Bulldogs open fall practice next week and will begin the season Sept. 1 at Campbellsville (Ky.) at 7 p.m. Union posted a 7-4 overall record in 2010 and went 4-2 in MSC West play.