Wesley’s Gono headed to Falcons: Lineman signs free agent deal with Atlanta

Wesley offensive lineman Matt Gono is headed to the Atlanta Falcons, the NFL team he feels is the best fit for him. Wesley College photo

DOVER — From a Wesley College football point of view, coach Mike Drass admits he was a little disappointed that Matt Gono didn’t get drafted.

Having a Wolverine’s name go up on the screen during the NFL Draft would have been an thrilling moment for the NCAA Division III program.

But, at the end of the day, Gono didn’t really have any complaints.

Not getting drafted meant that the Division III All-American offensive lineman could — to some degree — pick his own team. And of the double-digit number of NFL teams that made free-agent offers, the Atlanta Falcons are the team Gono would have picked all along.

Matt Gono becomes the fourth Wesley player in recent years to sign an NFL free-agent contract. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Gono agreed to terms with the Falcons on Saturday evening after the draft ended.

“In the seventh round, I don’t even think he wanted to get drafted,” said Drass. “I think he wanted to be able to pick where he wanted to go. He really liked Atlanta. He and his agent thought that would be the best spot for him.

“From the fifth round on, he was on the phone with ‘O’ line coaches from across the league constantly.”

Matt Gono

Gono becomes the fourth Wesley player in recent years to sign an NFL free-agent contract. He joins Bryan Robinson, Larry Beavers and Joe Callahan on the list — although Callahan was released on Monday after two seasons with the Packers.

Former Wolverines Jamar Baynard and Mike Asiedu also made it into NFL rookie camps.

“He’s excited,” Drass said about Gono. “He is a legit professional prospect. He’s going down there to make a football team — that’s how he thinks about it.

“Matt might have been the first signed when the draft was over,” Drass joked about Gono’s enthusiasm. “He knew where he wanted to go. A couple teams made it interesting for him but, in the end, that’s where he wanted to be.”

Ironically, there were already a few local connections with the Falcons.

Atlanta’s assistant offensive line coach, Kyle Flood, was the line coach on Delaware’s I-AA national championship squad in 2003. He’s the one who worked with Gono when the 6-foot-4, 306-pounder visited the Falcons for a pre-draft workout.

Also, former UD head coach Dave Brock is an assistant coach with Atlanta while the team’s operations director is former Delaware State defensive coordinator Nick Polk. Drass talked to all three men about Gono in the last month or so.

Gono will report to Atlanta by May 10. Now that he’s got his foot in the door, the rest is up to him.

Just signing as a free agent means Gono has already beaten some odds.

“I was sitting there thinking about it,” said Drass. “There’s 350 people that get selected to go to the (NFL) Combine. Only 250 people get drafted. So there’s 100 people walking around the Combine that aren’t getting drafted. It’s crazy.

“You look at the free agents and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s all All-Americans.

“So he’s got his work cut out for him. But the one thing about that kid is that he’s extremely coachable. He’ll work his tail off.”

Extra points

Being signed by the Packers — his favorite boyhood team — had been a dream come true for Callahan. He spent most of two seasons with Green Bay, playing in one regular-season game in 2017. Callahan still has a chance of being signed by another team as NFL squads fill out their rosters this week. … A.I. DuPont High grad Quadree Henderson is expected to sign with the Steelers as a free agent. He was a receiver/kick returner at Pitt. … Delaware defensive lineman Bilal Nichols said getting a call from Bears’ coach Matt Nagy telling him he was Chicago’s fifth-round pick on Saturday was, “the best phone call I’ve ever received in my life,” As for the fact that Nagy is also a former UD player, Nichols said, “Us Blue Hens, we’ve got tpo stick together.”

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