Former HBU Football Players Make History in 2022 NFL Draft

Houston Baptist University (HBU) has much to celebrate as two former HBU football players, Bailey Zappe ’20 and Jerreth Sterns, made history in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“You have notable Big 12 programs that did not have guys go in the draft this year and you see a little small Baptist college come in and do some things. That is not too bad for a program only eight years old,” said HBU Head Football Coach Victor Shealy.

Shealy commended both players and described their achievements in the draft as “a big opportunity” for both.

Zappe became HBU’s first-ever NFL draft pick when he was selected in the fourth round with the 137th pick by the New England Patriots. He was the most prolific quarterback in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in the fall of 2020, completing 141-of-215 passes for 1,833 yards, 15 touchdowns and only one interception in four games to earn Southland Conference Fall Player of the Year honors. The Victoria, Texas native averaged 458.25 passing yards per game, eclipsing the FCS record of 455.7 yards per game by Mississippi Valley State’s Willie Totten in 1984. In a narrow 35-33 loss at Texas Tech, Zappe completed 30-of-49 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns, recording the most passing yards by an FCS quarterback against a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent in NCAA history. He finished his HBU career with 10,004 passing yards and 78 touchdowns. After four seasons at HBU, Zappe went on to finish his career at Western Kentucky, where he set FBS records for single-season passing yards with 5,967 and touchdowns with 62.

Sterns became the third HBU player to join an NFL franchise when he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2022 draft. He played three seasons at HBU, becoming the Huskies’ all-time leader with 220 receptions for 1,971 yards and 18 touchdowns. In 2019, the Waxahachie, Texas, native tied the Southland Conference record with 18 receptions against UIW and finished the season with 105 receptions, which ranks second all-time in league history. Sterns finished his career at Western Kentucky, where he won the “Triple Crown” by leading the FBS in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He ranked third all-time in FBS history in a single season with 150 receptions for 1,902 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Caleb Johnson was HBU’s first player to sign an NFL contract, joining the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent following the 2021 draft, then becoming the first Husky to make a 53-man roster and appear in an NFL game.

“It’s kind of an interesting fact that Caleb Johnson and Bailey Zappe came in at the same time,” said Shealy. “Caleb didn’t come back for his fifth year, whereas Bailey did decide to play his fifth year of college ball so they ended up leaving a year different apart, but who’d have known when they were 18 years old coming in the front doors as freshmen that years later they would have a chance to make their own marks.”

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