Michigan State vs. Nebraska, 11.17

Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo (right) shares an amusing moment with his mother, Taiye, during the Senior Day ceremony at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Ozigbo surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing on his 11th carry of the game, becoming the first Husker to do so since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.

It didn't take several former Nebraska players long to find homes after the NFL Draft ended.

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan, running back Devine Ozigbo and linebacker Luke Gifford were among the players to have free agent deals secured within minutes of the draft wrapping up Saturday afternoon.

Morgan, the record-setting Nebraska receiver, is signing a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Gifford is headed to the Dallas Cowboys and Ozigbo to the New Orleans Saints, they each confirmed to the Journal Star. 

Morgan left NU with the two best single-season receiving marks in the school’s history and as the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,176). He caught a pass in 38 consecutive games, breaking Johnny Rodgers’ school record.

Morgan is known as a fierce competitor and a sure-handed receiver, and then he added solid athletic testing marks at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis earlier this spring by running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and recording a 38½-inch vertical jump.

That wasn't enough to hear his name called as no Husker was drafted for the first time since 1962, but Morgan will get a chance all the same. 

In Cincinnati, Morgan will be united with former Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor, who took over as the Bengals head coach this offseason. 

Gifford said he and his agent had been fielding strong interest throughout the day and that as many as seven teams were involved as the late rounds unfolded.

"There were a lot of teams that were debating and I thought I was going to get picked a couple times there in the sixth or the seventh (round)," he said. "It went the other way, but it's all good. I'm glad that it ended up the way it did."

That's really what matters at the end of the day for the Lincoln Southeast graduate, who put together his most productive season in his senior year despite coming off hip surgery in November 2017. 

"It's awesome; it's been a long process," Gifford said. "It's good to finally move on to the next chapter and start playing football again." 

At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Gifford recorded a team-best 13½ tackles for loss and 5½ sacks as part of a 62-tackle campaign. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the league’s coaches and media, and served as a captain.

Ozigbo was also thought to be a strong bet for a draft pick, but instead signed with the Saints. New Orleans had the 6-foot, 220-pound back in for a private workout in recent weeks, Ozigbo told the Journal Star recently. 

The former Texas high school standout nearly doubled his career rushing total in a breakout senior season. Once thought to be something of a back-burner option and perhaps not a good fit in Scott Frost’s up-tempo, zone-based offense, Ozigbo instead became a productive one-cut runner. He reworked his running stride in the offseason, getting in and out of cuts much more efficiently and getting to his adequate top-end speed more easily.

As a result, he totaled 1,082 yards (7 per carry) and 12 touchdowns as an integral member of the Husker backfield. One year after Nebraska combined for a meager total of 12 20-plus-yard rushes in 12 games in 2017, Ozigbo had 12 by himself and recorded 29 “chunk” runs in all, and ripped off four touchdown runs of 40-plus yards.

He did that damage despite not rising to the starting role until Week 4. From there, he averaged 110.2 yards per game and 7.9 per carry.

Other signings are listed below. In some cases, the deal may be a free agent signing or a minicamp invitation:

* Offensive lineman and Lincoln Southeast graduate Jerald Foster to the New York Giants, his father said via Twitter. 

* Linebacker Dedrick Young to the Cleveland Browns, he confirmed. 

* Defensive back Aaron Williams to the Arizona Cardinals, he confirmed. 

* Offensive lineman Tanner Farmer has minicamp invites from the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans, he tweeted. 

* Offensive lineman Cole Conrad is headed to minicamp with the Minnesota Vikings, per the NU football Twitter account. 

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.


Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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