Between 1988-2015, Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion combined for zero bowl appearances. Granted, the Monarchs didn't have a football program from 1941-2008 and didn't compete in the FBS until 2014, but still, the Bahamas Bowl is a streak-busting celebration for two programs on the rise.
And their respective rises have resulted in more attention from NFL teams. ODU hasn't had a player selected in the NFL Draft since their rebirth in 2009, which was also the last year EMU had a draftee. That might change in 2017, with three total players from the 2016 Bahamas Bowl receiving draft consideration.
|1||Zach Pascal||WR||Old Dominion|
|2||Pat O'Connor||DE||Eastern Michigan|
|3||Cole Gardner||OT||Eastern Michigan|
Old Dominion receiver Zach Pascal has played his way onto 2017 NFL Draft boards.
The senior finished his career with a second straight 60-catch, 800-yard, eight-touchdown season. At 6-foot-2, he's a good-sized target with decent hands who has performed well against upper-tier competition, including 104 yards and two scores against North Carolina State in September.
He's either a third-day pick or highly valued UDFA.
As for Eastern Michigan, it's been over seven years since they've had a player selected. After having draftees in both 2008 and 2009 (Jason Jones, 2008; T.J. Lang, 2009) and six total between 1998-2009, their 2017 hopes lie on defensive end Pat O'Connor and offensive tackle Cole Gardner.
O'Connor is a 6-foot-4, 270-pound team captain who had a gigantic comeback season in 2016. After missing last season with injury, he recorded 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The aggressive and quick disruptor finished his career with 19.5 career scacks.
Teammate Cole Gardner is a former tight end who blossomed into a reliable tackle.
Also a team captain and All-MAC Academic honoree, he started 22 games over the last years, earning All-MAC Second-Team honors in 2016. Though he needs to improve against big, blitzing linebackers, and is still inexperienced at the position, he should get third-day or UDFA consideration.