Ladies and gentlemen, we finally made it. After a long summer, the wait is over. NFL football is back!
All 32 teams have their 53-man rosters set and many of those rosters contain UCF alumni. Let’s take a look at the former UCF Knights who will be stepping on the field in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season:
WR Gabe Davis — Buffalo Bills
Arguably the most celebrated Knight currently playing in the NFL, Gabe Davis is entering his 4th season in the NFL.
Davis, who played for the Knights from 2017 to 2019 and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft, will be looking to build off a solid 2022 season where he recorded a career-high 48 receptions for 836 yards and seven touchdowns.
Although he is listed as the Bills’ number two receiver behind Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs, he is capable of putting on superstar-level performances. This was famously shown in the 2021 Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs where he caught an NFL playoff record four TDs.
Davis has been named as a team captain this season and barring any injuries he should be expected to play a big role on a team looking to finally win a Super Bowl.
RB Latavius Murray — Buffalo Bills
Joining Davis on the Bills is running back Latavius Murray, who is entering his tenth NFL season and first in Buffalo.
Murray, who played for the Knights from 2008 to 2012 and was a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, is nearing the end of his football career but still has some gas left in the tank. The UCF Athletics Hall of Famer and former Pro Bowler played in 13 games for two teams last year. He recorded 11 carries for 57 yards and one touchdown in a single game with the New Orleans Saints and 160 carries for 703 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games for the Denver Broncos.
He will now look to help improve the Bills rushing attack, which last season primarily relied on quarterback Josh Allen.
S Richie Grant — Atlanta Falcons
If we had to bet on a player who will have a breakout season this year, we’d pick Richie Grant.
Grant, who was selected in the second round of the 2021 draft after playing for the Knights from 2016 to 2020, is entering his third NFL season. He was one of the Falcons’ top defensive players last year, recording 70 solo tackles, 53 assisted tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two interceptions in 17 games. He has shown that he is a key component of the Falcons’ rebuild.
DB Mike Hughes — Atlanta Falcons
Joining Grant is a former first-round pick and the man responsible for one of the most famous plays in UCF football history.
Mike Hughes is entering his sixth NFL season and his first with the Falcons. Hughes, who played for the Knights in 2017, will look to have a much better season than last year, where he recorded 51 tackles in 16 games with the Detroit Lions.
DB Shaquill Griffin — Houston Texans
Shaquill Griffin, who played for the Knights from 2013 to 2016 and was selected in the third round of the 2017 draft, didn’t get the chance to do much last season due to an injury after only playing five games with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He enters his seventh NFL season and first with the Texans looking to rebound from his injury and return to the level that got him elected to the Pro Bowl in 2019.
I really don’t understand why Shaq Griffin has been hated on this preseason— Jacob (@Stroud4ROTY) August 28, 2023
He has been very solid imo and the PFF Grades back it up
Here he is making a very nice PBU pic.twitter.com/DRREE5ASZT
K Matt Prater — Arizona Cardinals
Matt Prater, who played for the Knights from 2002 to 2005, is arguably one of the best kickers of his generation. The 17-year veteran once held the record for the longest made field goal, 64 yards, and still currently holds the record for the most 50+ yard field goals made in NFL history, 70, and most extra points in a season, 75. It was business as usual for him last year as he went 22-for-25 on field goal attempts and 17-for-18 on extra point attempts. Prater will look to keep up his consistent play in his third season with the Cardinals.
WR Brandon Johnson — Denver Broncos
This is Brandon Johnson’s second season in the NFL, but it’s his first time making the initial 53-man roster. After playing for the Knights in 2021, Johnson was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent. However, he would be waived with an injury settlement before the start of the season. The Broncos re-signed him before Week 11 and he would play in 7 games where he recorded six receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown. Now that he has a chance to play a full season, it will be interesting to see what he can do.
TE Jordan Akins — Cleveland Browns
Jordan Akins enters his sixth NFL season in a new situation. After playing for the Texans he is now a member of the Browns. Akins, who played for the Knights from 2014 to 2017 and was a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, played in 15 games last season and recorded 37 receptions for 495 yards and five touchdowns. He will serve as the Browns’ second-string tight end behind David Njoku.
LS Charley Hughlett — Cleveland Browns
Charley Hughlett has been in the NFL for quite a while. After playing for the Knights from 2008 to 2011, he would bounce around practice squads from 2012 to 2014, including seven different stints with four different teams in 2014, before finally joining the Browns at the end of the 2014 season. He has been the team’s starting long snapper ever since. This will be his 10th season with the team and he has been named as one of the team captains.
LS Alex Ward — Los Angles Rams
Another Knight is serving as a team's starting long snapper and it’s a rookie.
Alex Ward, who played for the Knights from 2017 to 2022, may have been undrafted but there was little doubt he wouldn’t make the Rams’ roster. He was a two-time finalist for the Mannelly Award and was invited to the Senior Bowl. In other words, he was one of the best long snappers in college football last year and the Rams needed a long snapper.
DT Kalia Davis — San Fransisco 49ers
After being placed on the non-football injury list, Kalia Davis, who played for the Knights from 2017 to 2021 and was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 draft, missed his entire rookie season last year. He is set to finally play in his first-ever NFL game this season.
Blessed to be able to play the sport I love again https://t.co/h2Gz0RLJrm— KD (@KaliaDavis20) August 29, 2023
OT Ryan Swoboda — Detroit Lions
Ryan Swoboda is entering his rookie year. After playing for the Knights in the 2022 season, Swoboda went undrafted. He signed with the Lions, a team that has quietly assembled a talented offensive line unit over the years. But his hard work in training camp paid off and he made the team.
UCF ➡️ Detroit— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) April 29, 2023
Ryan Swoboda is a Lion ✍️ pic.twitter.com/YG6Dc6lrGI
Practice Squad/ Injured Reserve
The following players are not part of a 53-man roster but are currently signed to a team either as a practice squad member or are on a team’s injured reserve.
- Matthew Wright K San Fransisco 49ers (PS)
- Jacob Harris WR Jacksonville Jaguars (PS)
- Trysten Hill DT Cleveland Browns (PS)
- Justin McCray G Carolina Panthers (PS)
- Aaron Robinson CB New York Giants (IR/Physically Unable to perform)
- Tre Nixon WR New England Patriots (IR)
- Tre’Quan Smith WR New Orleans Saints (IR)
Unsigned Free Agents
The following Players were on NFL rosters during the preseason but were cut and are currently free agents.
- Cole Schneider (C)
- Tay Gowan (CB)
- Anthony Montalvo (DT)
- Divaad Wilson (CB)
- Samuel Jackson (OT)
- Nevelle Clarke (DB)
- Bershad Perriman (WR)