The NFL season has begun, and Penn football fans have good reason to be excited.
Three former Penn football players have made NFL 53-man rosters. Rookie Justin Watson made the cut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while veterans Brandon Copeland and Greg Van Roten are on the active rosters of the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, respectively.
All eyes have been on Watson, the fifth-round draft pick in this year’s NFL Draft, who was fighting to be a part of the deep and talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver corps. After totaling 130 receiving yards and two touchdowns in four preseason games, Watson made the roster but did not suit up in the team’s road opener against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.
While Watson has received a great deal of coverage recently, outside linebacker Copeland and offensive guard Van Roten will also have good chances to see the field this weekend. Both are listed as second string on their team’s respective depth charts, but they will have an opportunity to earn a starting spot as the season progresses.
This is Copeland’s first season with the Jets after missing the entirety of last year with a torn pectoral. He appeared on the practice squads of the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans in 2013 and then earned a spot on the Detroit Lions active roster, where he played from 2015-17. The 2013 Wharton graduate was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection during his four years at Penn.
Van Roten, Copeland’s teammate at Penn for three seasons, has also bounced around the league. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers soon after his 2012 graduation from Wharton. There, he played in 10 games over the course of two seasons before being released.
Van Roten also got experience with the Seattle Seahawks’ and Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squads and was later signed by Carolina in 2017. After a strong showing in 10 games last season, Van Roten signed a two-year extension with the Panthers this past January. The former Quaker had an illustrious college career, totaling 30 starts on the offensive line, while picking up first-team All-Ivy honors in his junior and senior seasons.
This weekend will mark the first time since the Ivy League’s formation that Penn has had as many as three NFL players on a regular season roster.
Watson, Copeland, and Van Roten are striving for even more, but regardless of how much playing time they end up getting this season, they are certainly making Quakers fans everywhere proud.
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