It’s a long way from Old Town to Kansas City, but that’s where Tyler Eastman is heading.

The University of Maine offensive lineman signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs after the conclusion of the NFL draft.

Eastman isn’t the only member of the Black Bears who will be trying to continue his football career as a professional. Wide receiver Landis Williams signed with the Denver Broncos, defensive lineman Jordan Stevens was invited to a Detroit Lions minicamp, and running back Jhamal Fluellen signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

“You know, it’s been a good day. I think there’s a credibility associated with us now,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove.

“It’s very motivating for the younger guys to look up and see their teammates get a chance.”

Eastman, at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, garnered the most attention among Maine’s prospects leading up to the draft.

“I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Eastman, an Old Town native.

“I had talked to a couple of teams … a coach with Atlanta and St. Louis during the draft. No one from Kansas City though. But they were at my pro day.”

No offensive linemen from Maine have gone on to the NFL since center Mike Flynn in 1997.

“We’ve had some really good offensive linemen, but one thing Tyler has that they didn’t is height,” said Cosgrove. “(Previous UMaine prospects) were 6-1, which doesn’t cut it in the NFL.”

Eastman, who was somewhat of a late bloomer at Maine, was named to the Colonial Athletic Association second team last fall.

He leaves for rookie camp later this week and hopes to eventually join former Maine defensive end Jovan Belcher, who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent last year and earned his way onto the roster as a linebacker. Belcher played in all 16 games and made 48 tackles.

Williams, a 5-foot-10, 174-pound receiver from Pemberton, N.J., amassed 71 receptions for 779 yards as a senior and was a CAA first-team selection. He was hoping to be invited to a minicamp but was elated to learn Denver was interested in signing him.

“This really changes my mindset. Either way, I was going to go in real hungry, looking to earn a job,” said Williams. “It makes me feel a little more comfortable and at home. I know it’s a team that wanted me because they offered me a contract.”

Maine has had several players make it to the NFL in recent years after signing as free agents — including Mike DeVito and Matt Mulligan of the New York Jets and Montell Owens of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brandon McGowan has played for the Bears and Patriots, and Stephen Cooper is a starting linebacker for the Chargers.

Stevens, a former Mt. Blue High standout, said he had been in touch with a scout from Detroit since UMaine’s pro day in March and was told the Lions would extend an invitation to camp if he didn’t sign with another team.

“I’m really excited I have the opportunity to go and try to make a team,” said the 6-2, 251-pound Stevens. “A lot of guys don’t even get that opportunity.

“(The Lions’ scout) watched film on me and wants me to continue to play how I always play, with a lot of effort.”

Fluellen, a native of Lockport, N.Y., hasn’t played football since using up his eligibility in 2008. He stayed at Maine as a graduate student and is a sprinter on the track team.

Fluellen began his career at Syracuse as a cornerback before transferring to Maine. He was cleared to play after surgery for a heart condition and rushed for 1,052 yards in 2007, then had an injury-plagued 2008 season.

“They want me to come in and help out on special teams as a returner,” said Fluellen. “If I keep working at it I may see some time at running back. I was trying to keep my eyes open to any opportunities that would come my way. And fortunately the CFL did come my way.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]