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#ProToppers Primer: Four Former Hilltoppers Open NFL Season

It's the most wonderful time of the year. The NFL season kicked off last night, and four (okay, three) former Hilltoppers will do the same on Sunday across the league.

For the first time in his career, Antonio Andrews will start an NFL season on a 53-man active roster.
For the first time in his career, Antonio Andrews will start an NFL season on a 53-man active roster.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It was not a very encouraging pre-season for those who enjoy seeing former Western Kentucky Hilltoppers football players succeed professionally. Never mind the fact that Indianapolis released Andrew Jackson in February and Denver released Quarters Smith in April, Jonathan Dowling, Cam Clemmons and Mitchell Henry all had ties severed with their teams as the 53-man roster deadline drew nearer last week.

However, there is some good news - we still have three active ProToppers who will take the field on Sunday and one of those guys who got cut last week has landed in a new home.


Antonio Andrews - Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday at 3:25 CT

Listen to anyone around the Titans training camp practices or preseasons, and you're going to hear nothing but great things. Some people think he has the opportunity to not only overshadow Dexter McCluster, but Bishop Sankey as well. Currently, A.A. is listed as RB3, but impressed enough to be listed as the top kickoff returner on an unofficial Titans depth chart earlier in the week (Monday, to be exact). Antonio saw time in all four preseason games, logging 20 total rushes for 77 yards and two scores, while also collecting two catches for 25 yards in the first preseason game at Atlanta. Andrews was used a lot - I mean a lotto - in the final preseason game, which could be seen as good (the coaching staff finally got to see what he could do) but probably is bad, meaning the Titans wanted to rest up Sankey and McCluster for this game. Maybe Andrews will be a third-down and goal-line package back before he gets a shot at the big time? Who knows. It'll be fun to see what his role is in week one, though.

Jack Doyle - Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, Sunday at 12:00 CT

They love them some Jack Doyle in Indy, and really, what isn't there to like? Well, in a word, the stats - three catches for a total of 16 yards over four preseason games. Okay, yes they aren't staggering numbers, but the Colts love Doyle as a body in special teams and at H-back as the lead blocker in the I-formation. If there is a sliver of a silver lining, its that Doyle is the only fullback listed on Indy's depth chart, and if the running back situation becomes suspect again, I think Doyle should get some touches (a thought I had last season as well). You won't see him haul in too many receptions, but you'll see #84 all over the field on Sunday.

Bobby Rainey - Titans at Buccaneers, Sunday at 3:25 CT

You think the biggest matchup of Week 1 is Marcus Mariota at Jameis Winston? Nuh-uh. It's Andrews vs. Rainey.
Okay, so it may not be that, but how awesome is it that A.A. and Bobby are facing each other in week one? Rainey, who appears to be heading into his final year in Tampa, compiled 18 carries for 52 yards and no touchdowns, and in looking at how the Bucs want to use him, it seems the days of him *hopefully* starting and being RB1 are over. It seems Rainey is going to be the consistent third-down or change of pace back for Winston and his offense, which might not be the worst thing. He could break through on 3rd & 1 for a 48 yard touchdown run. He also could get the ball at the goal line for a late-game touchdown. But, unfortunately, it seems it'll be the Dough Martin & Charles Sims show, with Rainey as the between-act-performer.

Mitchell Henry - Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens, Sunday at 3:25 CT

While Andrews and Rainey are battling in the sunshine state, Mitchell Henry gets his first crack with the Denver Broncos, after being claimed following his released from Green Bay. Henry had one catch for 11 yards with the Packers, and it seems like, according to the folks at Mile High Report, that Henry will have a very similar role that we've seen Doyle take on in Indy.
Look for Henry to provide depth at fullback/H-back, tight end, and play on special teams for the Broncos. I believe he will be a gameday inactive for the Broncos early on.

That was from Scotty Payne, and I'll take that. Henry might be inactive for the first few weeks of the year, but I think we'll see him towards the middle of the year. Henry was talked about a lot in Packers camp, and I was shocked to see him released, but not shocked that he got picked up.

If you're watching any of these games and are tweeting about any of the guys, be sure to use the hashtag "#ProToppers," and, feel free to use this as a live-thread of sorts for discussion and thoughts about the games as they're happening.