Rushen Jones Signs with Vikings, Dan Stricker with Patriots 4/27/03

Nashville, Tenn. - Two Vanderbilt captains from last year, cornerback Rushen Jones and wide receiver Dan Stricker, inked free agent deals with NFL teams late Sunday.

Jones, a four-year starter for the Commodores, agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings. Stricker, the Vanderbilt career leader with 21 touchdown receptions and one of the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receivers, signed with the New England Patriots.

Earlier Sunday, Vanderbilt All-SEC middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers. The Nashville native became the first Commodore selected since four players - linebackers Matt Stewart and Jamie Winborn, cornerback Jimmy Williams and kicker John Markham - were picked in 2001.

In 2002, Stricker led the Commodores with 44 receptions, good for 620 yards and six touchdowns. The two-time All-SEC selection ended his career second all-time among Vanderbilt receivers with 2,880 receiving yards. Stricker will join a New England Patriot team two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. Though the Patriots return two starters in David Patten and Troy Brown at wide receiver, they do have experienced depth at the position. In addition to signing Stricker, the Patriots used a second round pick to grab wide receiver Bethel Johnson of Texas A&M.

Jones will attempt to join Vanderbilt graduate Corey Chavous in the Minnesota secondary. Chavous, a recognized NFL Draft expert in his own right who joined the ESPN broadcasting team for its coverage this weekend, started at defensive back and safety for the Vikings last year.

Jones, a freshman All-American in 1999 for the Commodores, put together his best statistical season this year, contributing 70 tackles and a team-high 10 deflected passes for the Vanderbilt defense. When he gets to the Vikings’ claim, Jones should compete for an backup role at cornerback. The Vikings did not select a defensive back in the draft.



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