NFL dreams on hold



Ready to play, but nowhere to go; welcome to the life of

former Kent State football stars Cobrani Mixon and Brian Lainhart.

As the National Football League and the NFL players union

enter the fourth month of heated negotiations and battles in federal courts

over each side’s fair share of the multi-billion dollar industry, it is still

unknown if a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached in time for

the 2011 season.

The players union decertified three moths ago, and the

owners in turn locked out the players. Since then, neither side has budged.

“There’s so much money out there it’s hard to believe they

can’t come to an agreement,” said linebacker Cobrani Mixon, who earned his

second straight first-team all MAC honor as a senior last fall for the Flashes.

“Hopefully it ends soon. I need a job, I’m unemployed right now.”

Until a new collective bargaining agreement is put in place,

players cannot sign contracts, use team facilities, talk with coaches, or learn


Although Mixon and Kent State safety Brian Lainhart didn’t

hear their names called as they hoped they would on draft weekend, they both

said several teams called them to express interest (only during the NFL draft

are NFL teams allowed to be in contact during the lockout with potential


Lainhart and Mixon, best friends from their days together at

Cincinnati Colerain High School, were the two most highly scouted players for

Kent State during the spring draft.

Previous Season Stats


Position: Linebacker

Year: 2011 graduate (RS)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 240

Notes & Stats: Transferred from Michigan after 2006 season, two time All-MAC First Team (2009 & 2010), team captain, 82 tackles last season (3rd most on team).

Pre-draft analysis from Sports Illustrated: “Mixon has been a consistent player at Kent State the past two seasons and has shown flashes of NFL ability. He has the athleticism and skills necessary to back up on the weak side in a 4-3 defense if he keeps his focus and makes football a priority.”


Position: Safety

Year: 2011 graduate (RS)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 211

Notes & Stats: All-MAC First Team (2009), two time All-MAC Second Team (2008 & 2010), 88 tackles last season (second on team), team captain, 344 career tackles, 17 career interceptions (second in school history).

Pre-draft analysis from Sports Illustrated: “Lainhart has been a terrific college safety but lacks the pure athletic skills to consistently make plays outside the numbers. He’d be a productive backup in a zone system that asks him to play in the box. He comes with a special teams mentality.”


Past KSU players drafted

Just because Mixon and Lainhart were not taken in the 2011 NFL draft, it doesn’t mean they can’t have success in the league. In fact, Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns, James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Gates of the Sand Diego Chargers were all Golden Flashes passed over in the draft (although Gates, a college basketball player, was not eligible for the draft) and signed contracts as free agent rookies.

JAMESON KONZ, TE – Seattle Seahawks (7th round, 245 overall pick in 2010)

Stats: Did not play in 2010.

JULIAN EDELMAN, WR/KR – New England Patriots (7th round, 232 overall pick in 2009)

Notes: Played QB at KSU

Stats: 44 receptions, 445 receiving yards, 625 total return yards, 2 total touchdowns.

RICO MURRAY, DB – Cincinnati Bengals (undrafted in 2009)

Stats: 18 tackles.

JACK WILLIAMS, DB – Detroit Lions (Denver Broncos, 4th round, 119 overall pick in 2008)

Stats: 27 tackles. Did not play in 2010.

USAMA YOUNG, DB – New Orleans Saints (3rd round, 66 overall pick in 2007)

Notes: Super Bowl win in 2010.

Stats: 106 tackles, 1 sack, 3 interceptions.

DANIEL MUIR, DT – Indianapolis Colts (undrafted in 2007)

Stats: 78 tackles, .5 sacks.

ABRAM ELAM, DB – Cleveland Browns (undrafted in 2006)

Stats: 305 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions.

JOSH CRIBBS, WR/KR – Cleveland Browns (undrafted in 2005)

Notes: Played QB at KSU, two Pro Bowls (2007 & 2009), most kickoff return touchdowns in NFL history, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team as KR.

Stats: 59 receptions, 580 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns, 9,172 total return yards, 15 total touchdowns.

ANTONIO GATES, TE – San Diego Chargers (undrafted in 2003)

Notes: played basketball at KSU, seven Pro Bowls, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

Stats: 514 receptions, 6,763 yards, 67 touchdowns.

JAMES HARRISON, LB – Pittsburgh Steelers (undrafted in 2002)

Notes: Two Super Bowls (2006 & 2009), AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2008), four Pro Bowls (2007-2010), 100-yard interception return for touchdown in Super Bowl XLII (’09).

Stats: 488 tackles, 49 sacks, 5 interceptions.

The lockout makes it particularly difficult for undrafted rookie

free agents — who would otherwise use the time after April’s NFL draft to try out

for a team contract — to catch on with the league and find a place with a team.

“For the guys who got drafted, they know where they are

going,” Lainhart said, “but us free agents, we’re kind of in limbo right now,

so that makes things hard.”

In the fall, Lainhart earned second-team all-conference and

finished his Kent State career with 17 interceptions and 344 tackles.

“You have to have to get acclimated with the coaches and

playbook,” Lainhart said.

Because of the lockout, Mixon said he has missed “getting

our playbook, getting in there for rookie camp, meeting the guys and all the

coaches. I’m already behind, we’re all going to be thrown into the fire now.”

The waiting game

With no contact, there can be no contract. The two

NFL-hopefuls have had to find other ways to stay fit, make money and keep busy.

Mixon moved back to Cincinnati, where he trains five days

per week: running and upper-body workouts on Mondays and Thursdays, running and

lower-body workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays and boxing on Wednesdays.

Lainhart stayed in Kent to workout with Doug Davis, Kent

State football’s new strength and conditioning coach. He’s also used the time

to begin mixed martial arts training, which he does two times a week with Brian

Rogers, an MMA fighter at Strong Style gym in Independence.

“Their cardio is a totally different animal than what ours

is, so I can challenge myself with that,” Lainhart said.

Lainhart admitted waiting for the lockout to end gets

boring. “Play golf, workout for two and a half hours, then you just watch paint

dry,” he joked.

Lainhart started umpiring youth baseball games in Kent and

Hudson for the summer, calling strikes and balls behind the plate instead of

learning X’s and O’s on an NFL field.

Mixon, meanwhile, works side jobs to earn money during his

wait in Cincinnati.

“Cutting my family’s grass, cutting other grass, stuff like

that. It’s kind of hard to get a job because you’re going to have to give it up

soon, hopefully,”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, union head DeMaurice Smith,

team owners and negotiators have kept quiet about the legal proceedings at the recent

request of a federal judge.

The owners will meet in Chicago starting Tuesday in order to

receive updates on the progress of negotiations.  But, even the people closest to the lockout are unsure if

and when a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached.

Until then, Mixon and Lainhart will continue to prepare on

their own, waiting anxiously to show they belong in the league.

Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Doug Brown at [email protected].