Jones, Onwualu and Luke sign as undrafted free agents
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, May 1, 2017
Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones will be reunited with former Irish teammate and fellow defensive lineman Romeo Okwara after signing with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent.
Jones originally committed to Notre Dame as a member of the recruiting class of 2012. Like linebacker James Onwualu, Jones arrived at Notre Dame to play on the other side of the ball, rated as a four-star offensive tackle.
After redshirting for Notre Dame’s run to the BCS national championship game in 2012, Jones appeared in 12 games in the 2013 season, including his first career start in the team’s 27-20 loss to Stanford. He recorded the first sack of his career in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.
In 2014, Jones recorded a career-high in tackles-for-loss in Notre Dame’s top-five matchup with Florida State and recorded split sacks against Rice, Purdue and Louisville before suffering a season-ending foot injury against the Cardinals. Jones missed the entire 2015 regular season after tearing his MCL in August, but returned for Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.
In 2016, Jones posted career highs in tackles, tackles-for-loss, sacks and passes defended while also recording his first career interception in Notre Dame’s victory over Nevada. Jones recorded a career-high six tackles-for-loss in the Irish victory over Miami.
Jones earned a reputation as a prolific blocker of field goals and extra points from the beginning of his career, blocking a Temple extra-point attempt in his first career game before blocking a BYU fourth-quarter field goal in the team’s final home game of the 2013 season. He recorded two more blocked extra points in 2014, in victories over Syracuse and North Carolina, and he blocked a Texas extra-point attempt in Notre Dame’s 2016 opener that was taken back for two points in the final minute to send the game to overtime.
Jones will be one of three rookies on the Giants defensive line unit for training camp, joining former Alabama defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and former Youngstown State defensive end Avery Moss, drafted in the second and fifth rounds respectively.
Former Irish linebacker James Onwualu will join Rochell as a member of the Chargers after signing with the newly-relocated franchise as an undrafted free agent.
Onwualu began his Notre Dame career as a wide receiver in 2013, joining linebacker-turned-tight end Troy Niklas and receiver-turned-running back C.J. Prosise as another Irish player to sign for an NFL team after a position change at Notre Dame. Onwualu appeared in 12 games in 2013, starting in four of them and catching two passes for 34 yards.
In 2014, Onwualu moved to the linebacker position, starting eight games. He recorded two tackles-for-loss, both in the team’s victory over Navy. Onwualu started nine games in 2015, missing the final two regular season encounters with a knee injury. He recorded three sacks, including one in the Fiesta Bowl of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Onwualu led the Irish in tackles-for-loss last season with 11.5, was tied for second on the team with three sacks and was third in tackles with 75. He started all 12 games as a captain and recorded two tackles-for-loss against Nevada and 12 tackles and a sack against Army.
Onwualu, like Rochell, will be hoping to make an impact on a Los Angeles Chargers team with a new head coach, defensive coordinator and location. He joins an inexperienced Chargers linebacking corps, where fifth-round rookie Jatavis Brown led the team in tackles last season, while Denzel Perryman and Kyle Emmanuel each started more than 10 games in only their second season.
Former Notre Dame cornerback Cole Luke signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent.
Luke was a stalwart of the Notre Dame defense over the past three seasons, appearing in all 51 games since joining the Irish and starting all 38 since the start of the 2014 season. In 2013, Luke made 15 tackles, including half a tackle-for-loss against Navy.
Moving into the starting lineup for 2014, Luke was tied for first on the team with four interceptions and led the Irish with 11 pass break ups. In the team’s 17-14 victory over Stanford, Luke made two interceptions and recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and four tackles.
Luke made two interceptions in 2015, including one off Deshaun Watson in the team’s first defeat of the season. In 2016, Luke recorded interceptions in back-to-back games against Stanford and Miami. He also recorded two tackles-for-loss, including one in the season-opener against Texas.
Luke joins a Panthers team hoping to recover from a 6-10 season after going 15-1 and appearing in the Super Bowl the season prior. The Panthers also addressed the cornerback position in the offseason, selecting Miami defensive back Corn Elder in the fifth round of the draft and signing Teddy Williams and Captain Munnerlyn in free agency. Luke will be the second Notre Dame player on the Panthers’ roster, joining long snapper J.J. Jansen.