ATHENS — Tyler Catalina and Maurice Smith played last year as graduate transfers at Georgia, then didn’t hear their names called in the 2017 NFL Draft.
That didn’t prove to be the end of their hopes, however.
Catalina and Smith each made it on the NFL’s cutdown day: Catalina, an offensive lineman, was named to the 53-man roster for the Washington Redskins, and Smith, a defensive back, made the Miami Dolphins.
Another player off the 2016 Georgia team, safety Quincy Mauger, was placed on injured reserve by the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons waived receiver-kickoff returner Reggie Davis, another Georgia product.
Offensive lineman Greg Pyke was cut by the Buffalo Bills on Friday.
Catalina and Smith spent one year at Georgia, joining the Bulldogs as graduate transfers. Catalina, who came over from Rhode Island, started 12 games for Georgia last year at left tackle. Smith, formerly of Alabama, started every game at nickelback and was named one of the team’s four captains.
The Palm Beach Post called Smith the most “impressive” undrafted free agent in Miami’s camp.
It’s not quite final yet: Teams still can adjust their rosters, especially if they see players they like on the new free-agent pile. But getting this far is a big accomplishment for an undrafted free agent.
If it sticks, that makes at least three members of the 2016 Georgia team who made opening-day rosters. Receiver and punt returner Isaiah McKenzie was a fifth-round pick of the Denver Broncos and will be that team’s punt returner.
McKenzie was the only Georgia player drafted, the fewest the team had selected since 1992, when none were picked.
Of course, that doesn’t account for the players who probably would have been drafted had they not decided to return for their senior year: tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, and safety Dominick Sanders.