MADISON – Jake Byrne didn’t get his named called during the seven rounds of the National Football League’s draft held in New York City over the weekend, but the former University of Wisconsin-Madison tight end will still get a chance to live his NFL dream after signing a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Byrne, a 6’4” 240-lbs. tight end from Rogers, Ark., joins the Saints along with former Badger teammate Nick Toon, a wide receiver who was drafted in the fourth round of the draft on Saturday. The UW duo will be fighting for a roster spot on a Saints team that led the NFL with 467 yards of total offense per game last season.
Byrne, the son of Shullsburg native Jeff Byrne and the grandson of Shullsburg’s Joe and Jeri Byrne, was one of 12 Badgers to join NFL teams over the weekend. Six were drafted– one each in each of the first six rounds– while Byrne and five others signed on as free agents.
The Atlanta Falcons picked up three former Badgers after drafting guard/center Peter Konz in the second round and fullback Bradie Ewing, a former Richland Center athlete, in the fifth round and adding defensive end Louis Nzegwu, a former Platteville High School standout, in free agency.
Guard Kevin Zeitler was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Russell Wilson went to the Seattle Seahawks in the third round and punter Brad Nortman was picked by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round.
Also signing free agent deals were cornerback Antonio Fenelus (Indianapolis Colts), safety Aaron Henry (Oakland Raider), defensive tackle Patrick Butrym (San Francisco 49ers) and Kyle Wojta (Chicago Bears).