Three YSU?players sign free-agent deals

After the final name in the 2013 NFL draft was announced, Youngstown State University running back Jamaine Cook was a little disappointed and frustrated that he didn’t hear his name called over the past three days.

Then his phone rang from an unknown “216” area code number. He assumed it was one of his family members calling, as Cook is from the Cleveland area. Little did he know it was his future on the other end.

“I saw the number and assumed it was one of my family members,” the Cleveland native said. “Actually it was the Cleveland Browns’ running backs coach. They are only inviting one running back to camp and it’s me.”

Cook is one of three Penguins this year offered unrestricted free agent contracts by an NFL team. The standout running back will be joining the Cleveland Browns, tight end Will Shaw is heading to Pittsburgh to become a Steeler and offensive lineman Lamar Mady got an offer from the Oakland Raiders – but they weren’t the only team wanting Mady’s services.

“I ended up making the decision to go to Oakland,” Mady said. “They called me, Tennessee and the Texans called me, but ultimately I made the decision to go to Oakland.”

Mady said the deciding factor for him was the depth the Raiders have at his position, offensive guard. Currently on the roster, the Raiders only have three guards listed, which he said gives him the chance “to make an impact for a team.”

While Mady might not have garnered the headlines that Cook did for the Penguins, he was a big reason Cook and the Penguin offense was able to have success this past season. He was a part of the line that let quarterback Kurt Hess to pass for more than 2,000 yards (Shaw caught for 429 of those yards) and for Cook’s 1,294 yards in 2012. Mady took part in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which is where he had contact with Oakland. He also said the Raiders visited Youngstown numerous times to watch him at practice.

All three Penguins had to sit and wait all day for their futures to be decided. Shaw, a tight end, said it’s something that he really has no intention of wanting to go through again.

“I’ve never had a day where all I did was sit and wait for someone to tell me what I was going to do with the rest of my life,” Shaw said. “It’s something I don’t look forward to doing ever again. But I’m glad and thankful for the opportunity the Steelers have given me.”

When Shaw got the phone call from the Steelers, the sense of relief came swarming over him, even if it was from a team the Baltimore native has grown up rooting against.

“Myself and my whole family are Baltimore fans,” Shaw said. “But I’m a Steelers fan now. I’m sure I can convince my mom to be one as well.”

Shaw will report to Pittsburgh on Thursday for rookie minicamp. Mady and Cook will find out today when they need to report to their new teams.

While all three Penguins know they have a lot of work head, Cook absolutely knows the test he has ahead of him. In terms of running backs, the Browns bolster four running backs on the roster, including the 2012 third-overall pick, Trent Richardson.

“It’s going to be competition, just like when I got to YSU,” Cook said, who rushed for 15 touchdowns this past season. “This is all still kind of surreal. I was so excited after I got the call, but now it’s a feeling that I want to go out and work even harder.”

For all three, today now starts the rest of their professional lives, and puts a close to all the hard work the three did during their years at YSU.

“It’s the satisfaction of knowing that all the hard work didn’t go to waste,” Shaw said. “Ever since I was a little kid I have been working for this. Now, I’m just going to take it and run with it and do the best that I can.”