Pierre Strong Jr. and Chris Oladokun headline SDSU and USD players group with new NFL opportunities – Mitchell Republic


LAS VEGAS — For several former local college football players, it was a weekend of opportunity centered around the events of the 2022 NFL Draft.

South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. and Chris Oladokun both had their names called Saturday, highlighting a group of seven local college athletes to earn NFL opportunities over the weekend.

A two-time All-American, Strong rushed for 4,527 yards and had 49 touchdowns during his four years at Brookings. The Little Rock, Arkansas native had to wait until Day 3 of the NFL Draft for his selection, but didn’t wait long once the draft opened on Saturday. With the 22nd pick in the fourth round, Strong became a New England patriot, becoming the fourth running back taken in the fourth round and 10th overall up to that point.

Five hours later, Oladokun was the seventh quarterback out of the roster, chosen along with the 20th pick in the seventh round, 241st overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Oladokun made previous saves at the University of South Florida and Samford before landing at SDSU for the 2021 season, in which he threw for 3,164 yards and 25 touchdowns on seven interceptions with completion percentage by 62.3%.

South Dakota State University’s Chris Oladokun (6) passes the ball during the Jackrabbits game against Dixie State University in the Beef Bowl game on Saturday, October 2, 2021 at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.

Mitchell Republic file photo

Strong and Oladokun were the only South Dakota institutional athletes selected in 2022, but three of their SDSU teammates and two University of South Dakota players got undrafted free agent offers immediately after the draft.

From SDSU, cornerback Don Gardener signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, safety Michael Griffin II signed with the Tennessee Titans, and offensive lineman Aron Johnson signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

American linebacker Jack Cochrane will join the Kansas City Chiefs, while safety Elijah Reed will head to the New York Jets.

Gardener missed much of 2021 with a broken arm but was a three-year starter for the Jackrabbits, appearing in 48 games with 133 total tackles, four interceptions and 20 passes defended.

Griffin began his career at Southwest Minnesota State but racked up 142 total tackles in three years at SDSU. During March’s SDSU Pro Day, Griffin recorded a vertical leap of 43.5 inches, which topped any jump in the NFL Combine.

Johnson appeared in 48 games during his Jackrabbit career and made debuts at right and left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder came to Brookings as a walker but left after clearing the way for Strong on one of the best ground attacks in the nation.

Cochrane was predicted as a late-round pick by some pundits after a season of 103 tackles and four interceptions in 2021. For his Coyote career, Cochrane amassed 327 tackles with two seasons over 100.

Reed, who is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, has 258 tackles in 47 career games for USD, capping his time at Vermillion with 77 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles in 2021.

Minicamps for rookies are scheduled for May 6-9 and May 13-16.


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