ORONO, Maine — Tyler Eastman was disappointed Saturday when the National Football League amateur draft ended without him being selected.
“I was a little bummed out, but I knew I still had a chance,” Eastman recalled Tuesday.
The big offensive lineman from Old Town didn’t have to wait long to receive some exciting news.
“About 30 minutes after the draft ended, I got a phone call and I was a member of the [Kansas City] Chiefs,” said Eastman, who reports to Kansas City on Thursday for a two-day rookie minicamp.
He’ll return Monday to Orono for final semester exams.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman from the University of Maine became the second eastern Maine player in three years — West Enfield native Matt Mulligan signed in 2008 — to receive an NFL contract.
“It’s awesome,” said the soft-spoken Eastman, who anchored the UMaine offensive line at left tackle the last two seasons. “I kind of knew I was going to go somewhere, I just had no idea where.”
Eastman had flown to Atlanta two weeks ago to work out for the Falcons and had been contacted by a handful of other teams. Atlanta and St. Louis both called him during the draft, but neither wound up choosing him.
Instead, he’ll get a shot with Kansas City, which last year signed free-agent linebacker Jovan Belcher, Eastman’s teammate for three seasons at UMaine.
“I sent him an e-mail [Tuesday] morning. I’m hoping he’ll send something back and have some advice for me,” Eastman said.
Eastman is one of five former UMaine players who are getting a shot at pro ball this spring.
Wide receiver Landis Williams has signed a contract with the Denver Broncos and former Bears running back Jhamal Fluellen will join the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
Also, defensive end Jordan Stevens of Temple and linebacker Brandon McLaughlin will attend rookie minicamps with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, respectively.
Eastman, who was a football and field events standout at Old Town High School, made 24 consecutive starts at left tackle for the Bears. During that time, UMaine featured a dominating ground game in 2008 and a league-leading passing attack last fall.
“It’s one of those unique stories about a kid that lives right down the street, came to our [summer] camp and went through a high school career where not many people noticed him,” UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said last season.
Eastman trained hard during the offseason, working out with UMaine assistant track coach and former Bears football standout David Cusano. He dropped 13 pounds early this year.
UMaine’s biggest player in 2009 has good agility and flexibility for someone with such a large frame, according to Bears offensive line coach Frank Giufre.
“He moves really well for a big guy,” Giufre said last season. “He does a good job of being able to sink his hips, play low, play with leverage.”
Eastman said he will return to Kansas City later in May to begin preseason workouts.
UMaine honors Masters, Conner
Riley Masters of Bangor and Corey Conner of Townsend, Mass., have been honored as UMaine’s athletes of the year.
Masters was chosen the top male athlete after twice breaking the four-minute mile, both school records, and finishing fifth at the NCAA indoor track and field championship.
Conner was named the best female athlete after winning the America East cross country individual title and finishing 83rd at the NCAAs. She also won the mile at the league indoor track championship.
The duo also received Performance of the Year recognition.
UMaine handed out numerous awards Saturday during its Black Bear Awards night. See the complete list on Page C2.
Cole Bone Marrow Drive today
The UMaine football team will host the annual Jeff Cole Memorial Bone Marrow Drive today from 3-7 p.m. at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center on the Orono campus.
By submitting to a simple swab of the mouth and answering a few questions, participants may be placed on the national bone marrow registry. Bone marrow transplants are used to battle cancer and other serious illnesses.
The drive is named in honor of former UMaine football assistant coach Cole, who died in 2004 after a long bout with cancer.
Saturday morning, the Black Bears will again honor Cole by playing the annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Scrimmage. The action begins at 10 a.m. on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.