San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Five Aztecs sign to NFL teams as undrafted free agents

File photo
San Diego State football-junior safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. (#36) helps lay a hit on a Brigham Young receiver during the Aztecs’ 13-3 victory on Nov. 30, 2019 at SDCCU Stadium.

Following the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft on May 1, five former San Diego State football players signed with NFL teams.

Safeties Tariq Thompson, Dwayne Johnson Jr., offensive tackle Kyle Spalding, offensive guard Jacob Capra and long snapper Turner Bernard (Minnesota Vikings) are officially on NFL rosters, signing as undrafted free agents.

The five players join former Aztec cornerback Darren Hall in signing with a professional team. Hall was selected by the Atlanta Falcons on the third day of the draft in Round 4.

It was also announced that all six student-athletes will be graduating from SDSU with their Bachelor’s degrees.

Some members of the 2019 New Mexico Bowl champion team participated in SDSU’s Pro Day in March after COVID-19 stripped them of their chances to compete in a university-led Pro Day. Those participants included linebacker Kyahva Tezino, tight end Parker Houston, offensive lineman Daishawn Dixon, defensive back Kyree Woods and punter Brandon Heicklen. 

Houston, Tezino and Dixon signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents last offseason but did not make 53-man rosters.

The only potential prospect from the 2020 Aztecs team to not receive a phone call was punter Tanner Kuljian.

Tariq Thompson (Buffalo Bills)

Thompson is headed to Buffalo, New York after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Bills.

The San Diego native had 11 interceptions during his SDSU career. Thompson only grabbed one pick during the shortened 2020 season, but still showed off his coverage skills with three passes defensed. He also had 41 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2020.

In his college career, Thompson nabbed 210 tackles, 23 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

The four-year starter’s ball instincts show glimpses of current Bills free safety Micah Hyde, who has over 500 tackles and 17 interceptions in his career.

Dwayne Johnson Jr. (Atlanta Falcons)

Johnson Jr. is keeping the San Diego State ties alive in Atlanta, joining Hall to become the second Aztec on the Falcons’ roster.

After a breakout 2019 season, Johnson Jr. still put up strong numbers in seven games in 2021. 40 tackles, a sack and three passes defensed was good enough to earn Johnson Jr. honorable mention honors from the Mountain West Conference.

Now, Johnson Jr. will attempt to put together a strong offseason to potentially make the Falcons’ Week 1 roster.

Kyle Spalding (Los Angeles Chargers)

Spalding, a left tackle who originally committed to SDSU as a tight end, is staying in Southern California to begin his pro career.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman from McKinleyville, Calif. won All-MWC First-Team Offense honors in 2020. This past season, Spalding allowed just one sack in 216 passing plays. In over 550 total snaps, he was penalized once.

Spalding will try to make the roster of a team that heavily focused on building its offensive line unit this offseason.

Jacob Capra (Green Bay Packers)

Capra, who transferred from Oregon in 2019, also transitioned from offensive tackle to guard in 2020. That transition paid off for both Capra and the Aztecs.

Capra was named to the Pro Football Focus national team of the week last November following the Scarlet and Black’s blowout win over Utah State.

At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, Capra’s measurables and potential could be reasons why the Packers signed him in the post-draft process.

Turner Bernard (Minnesota Vikings)

Bernard, a Patrick Mannelly Award semifinalist (best college long snapper) in 2019, was signed by the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from Glendale, Ariz. started four years at SDSU after tearing his ACL in 2016.

Bernard hopes to follow in the footsteps of former SDSU longsnappers Tyler Schmitt and Aaron Brewer in making a 53-man roster.

About the Contributor
Kyle Betz
Kyle Betz, Sports Editor
Kyle Betz is a fourth-year journalism student at SDSU and 2020-21 marks his fourth year reporting for The Daily Aztec. The Lake Forest, Calif. native has covered numerous sports as a writer, editor and media contributor. An avid fan of the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester United and Anaheim Ducks, Kyle enjoys watching and attending sporting events, listening to music, going to the beach and spending time with friends and family in his free time.
Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Five Aztecs sign to NFL teams as undrafted free agents