Thursday's final night of NFL preseason action provided the perfect stage for young athletes, including several with Utah ties, to show they belong on the 53-man roster.
It also gave a veteran former Cougar, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, the chance to return to the field — Heinz Field — that he's always called home. The 13-year veteran had a pass deflection against Carolina after re-signing with Pittsburgh last week.
Ezekiel Ansah, another BYU product, started at defensive end for the Lions and produced a sack and a quarterback hurry as he continues to get back in game shape following offseason surgery.
It was a big night for local rookies as well. Former Ute Tenny Palepoi got the start at defensive end for the Chargers and had three tackles and a fumble recovery, while former Utah teammate L.T. Tuipulotu started at defensive tackle for the Patriots and had two tackles.
First-year pro Daniel Sorensen (BYU) also started at strong safety for the fourth straight game for the Chiefs and had five tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass deflection. Two other rookies with Utah ties earned starts as well: former USU defender Maurice Alexander at safety for the Rams — he had one tackle — and Timpview High's Xavier Su'a-Filo at right tackle for the Texans.
It was a busy night for players with Utah ties. Here's a look at the other highlights:
— Raiders rookie linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu (Utah State and Granger High) recorded four tackles.
— Oakland first-year linebacker Spencer Hadley (BYU) had three tackles.
— Raiders rookie cornerback Keith McGill (Utah) registered a tackle, a forced fumble and a pass deflection.
— Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush (Utah State) had six tackles, an interception and a pass deflection.
— Green Bay rookie linebacker Jake Doughty (Utah State and Juan Diego High) had three tackles.
— Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (Utah State) returned to the field after healing from a hamstring injury and had five tackles.
— Chargers defensive end Joe Kruger (Utah and Pleasant Grove High) made four tackles in his first game in San Diego. He joined the team after being waived by the Eagles last week.
— Patriots first-year defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna (BYU and Timpview High) made three tackles.
— Lions first-year cornerback Nevin Lawson (Utah State) recorded two tackles.
— The Jets' Tevita Finau (Utah) started at defensive end and had three tackles and a quarterback hurry.
— Jets rookie linebacker Trevor Reilly (Utah) recorded two tackles and a pass deflection.
Click through the photos at the top of the story for images of locals during the final week of the NFL preseason.
Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @brandonljudd