Utah State football has six former players sign NFL free agent contracts

Oct 16, 2015; Logan, UT, USA; Utah State Aggies defensive end Ricky Ali'ifua (95) celebrates after a sack and forced fumble on Boise State Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (not pictured) during the first half at Romney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football had six former players sign professional free agent contracts on Saturday, following the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua and tight end Wyatt Houston both signed contracts with the Kansas City Chiefs, defensive back Marquan Ellison signed with the Seattle Seahawks, defensive back Daniel Gray signed with the Arizona Cardinals, offensive lineman Jake Simonich signed with the Houston Texans and offensive lineman Austin Stephens signed with the Carolina Panthers.

Ali’ifua, a 6-foot-2, 280-pounder from San Leandro, Calif. (San Leandro HS) earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a senior in 2016 as he finished the season ranking first on the team with both 3.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss, as part of his 29 tackles (15-solo, 14-assist), which ranked third on the team among defensive linemen.

Ali’ifua, who was also a two-time academic all-Mountain West honoree, finished his career with 99 tackles (39-solo, 60-assist), which included 8.0 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss, to go along with two forced fumbles and five pass breakups as he played in 51 games with 23 starts.

Houston, a 6-4, 255-pounder from Tualatin, Ore. (Horizon Christian HS) earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a senior in 2016 in addition to earning third-team all-conference honors from Phil Steele. Houston finished the season leading all MW tight ends with 35 receptions, while ranking second among all tight ends in the conference with 330 receiving yards. He also ranked third on the team in both receptions (35) and receiving yards (330), and ranked tied for second with his two receiving touchdowns.

Houston, who was also a four-time academic all-Mountain West honoree, finished his career ranking second all-time in school history among tight ends in career receptions (86), career receiving yards (933) and career touchdown receptions (9) as he played in 46 games with 28 starts.

Ellison, a 5-10, 200-pounder from Milwaukee, Wis. (Bradley Tech HS) had 14 tackles (7-solo, 7-assist) during his senior season, which included 1.0 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss, while adding one pass breakup. He also returned eight kickoffs for 205 yards (25.7 ypr) and had one punt return for one yard.

For his career, Ellison recorded 17 tackles (10-solo, 7-assist), which included 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss to go along with one forced fumble and one pass breakup as he played in 36 career games.

Gray, a 5-10, 190-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Boyd Andersen HS/Tennessee) finished his senior season tied for fifth on the team with 45 tackles (25-solo, 20-assist), which included 1.0 tackles for loss, while adding four pass breakups and one interception.

Gray, who earned academic all-Mountain West honors in 2014, finished his Utah State career with 87 tackles (52-solo, 35-assist), which included 1.5 tackles for loss to go along with 10 pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble and one touchdown as he played in 27 games with 19 starts.

Simonich, 6-5, 305-pounder from Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley HS) started 40 games and played in 52 during his Utah State career, which ranks tied for second all-time in school history. In all, he earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a sophomore, junior and senior as he played a combined 2,675 snaps and graded out at 80 percent, which included 84 percent in effort, 83 percent in assignment and 75 percent in technique. Simonich, who also earned academic all-conference honors as a sophomore, finished his career with 147 knockdowns.

Stephens, 6-3, 315-pounder from West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley HS/Iowa Western CC) started all 39 games he played in during his Utah State career. In all, he earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a sophomore, junior and senior as he played a combined 2,641 snaps and graded out at 84 percent, which included 90 percent in effort, 90 percent in assignment and 81 percent in technique. Stephens finished his career with 123 knockdowns.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

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