Six former UTEP players will have an opportunity to make an NFL roster this year, as three ex-Miners were drafted and the other three were undrafted free agents. All but Jacob Cowing — who had two All-Conference seasons at UTEP before transferring to Arizona for his final two seasons — played for the Miners in 2023.

This is the first time that the Miners have seen three former players selected in the NFL Draft since 2008 when Oniel Cousins (Ravens), Quintin Demps (Eagles) and Marcus Thomas (Chargers) were drafted.

  • LB Tyrice Knight, 4th Round, Seattle Seahawks 
  • WR Jacob Cowing, 4th Round, San Francisco 49ers
  • OT Elijah Klein, 6th Round, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • QB Gavin Hardison, Undrafted Free Agent, Miami Dolphins
  • C Andrew Meyer, UDFA, Miami Dolphins
  • OL Zuri Henry, UDFA, New England Patriots 

Not one of them was a ranked recruit out of high school. It begs the long-standing question, do stars matter when evaluating talent for football?

Their UTEP-to-NFL predecessors faced similar challenges. Most notably, all-time leading rusher in UTEP history Aaron Jones had little to no offers out of Burges high school. Despite having a successful high school career at Burges, Jones was only listed as a 2-star prospect and then earned a 3-star grade by 247 Sports after he committed to UTEP. He went on to shatter records in college and earned a fifth-round draft selection by the Packers in 2017.

Despite playing in the 2016 6A state championship game in Florida, Knight went under the radar with most programs in the area. He had a few FCS/FBS offers before his senior year, but those programs backed off and he went the JUCO route at Independence Community College. At the JUCO level, Knight continued to excel on the field, but he still went unnoticed. UTEP offered him a few weeks before signing day in 2020 as his only offer and the rest is history. Flash forward to 2024, Knight will now have an opportunity to compete for regular time in the Seahawks' linebacker corps.

The surprise of the NFL Draft: offensive tackle Elijah Klein taken in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Klein, along with fellow offensive line UDFA pickups Andrew Meyer (Dolphins) and Zuri Henry (Patriots), are all products of the original 2018 recruiting class that Dimel signed when he first got to UTEP. Yes, the three have been in college football for a long time, and they are all products of redshirting and the COVID extra year of eligibility. Klein had absolutely no other offers to play football out of Upland Christian (CA). All three of the now former Miners offer versatility up front, each having experience playing multiple spots on the offensive line. Both Meyer and Klein had been mainstay starters on the offensive line since 2019. Henry battled injuries during his time at UTEP but always found a way to be productive on offense when healthy.

Now comes quarterback Gavin Hardison, who also took a bit of a JUCO route to get to UTEP. Out of Hobbs, New Mexico, Hardison was known as a prolific passing quarterback that amassed over 5,000 career passing yards in high school. Yet, he went completely under-recruited throughout his process. After a year at New Mexico Military Institute, UTEP signed him to join their quarterback room. Following Kai Locksley as UTEP's starter in 2019, Hardison stepped in and filled the starting quarterback role from 2020-23. His critics will point out the completion percentage at UTEP (54%). However, his cannon for an arm and his experience make him an interesting NFL prospect moving forward.

More From KLAQ El Paso