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Duquesne Coach Jerry Schmitt On WR Cyrus Holder and OL Jake Dixon’s Path To Receiving Rookie Free Agent Contracts

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After the 2022 NFL Draft concluded, Duquesne Dukes Cyrus Holder and Jake Dixon signed undrafted rookie free agent contracts — Holder with the Bears and Dixon with the Steelers. Holder and Dixon are the first Duquesne players to sign undrafted free agent contracts since offensive lineman Larson Graham, who signed with the Falcons in 2017 and was with the Steelers for training camp and the preseason in 2018.

“I was really happy for both of those guys,” Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt said. “They both really worked hard during their time here. Cyrus came in as a transfer two years ago and Jake was here for five years. Both those guys work extremely hard and prepared for their pro days. I was really happy to see them rewarded. It couldn’t have happened to better people and good athletes, as well.”

Schmitt said Dixon put up 34 reps at 225 pounds at the Duquesne pro day, which really opened the eyes of scouts. Holder also ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, which put him on NFL team’s radars.

Dixon (6-foot-6, 290-pounds) originally committed to play Division-I volleyball at Lewis University before transferring to Duquesne. He was a tight end for his first two seasons before making the switch to offensive tackle.

“He had a unique situation as he played football, basketball and volleyball at Bethel Park,” Schmitt said. “We recruited him, but he decided to take a division-1 volleyball scholarship. We even heard that he was on track to qualify for the Olympics, so I understand the route he wanted to go. After a semester, he realized he wanted to play football. His cousin Connor Dixon played for us, so he was familiar with our program. He came to play tight end and was about 220. He kept putting on weight and getting stronger. We needed a left tackle, and he made the transition, and he did really a good job.”

Dixon’s 34 bench reps that he displayed at his pro day was more than any offensive lineman who attended the NFL Combine.

“He’s naturally strong, but he was one of the hardest workers on the teams since he’s been here,” Schmitt said. “He works extremely hard in the weight room and is a leader, so it didn’t surprise me that he put up 34 reps at 225.”

Holder, who stands at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, earned All-Northeast Conference honors in each of his two seasons at Duquesne following his transfer from Saint Francis University. Holder finished his collegiate career with 122 receptions for 2,270 yards and 22 touchdowns in 40 career games (25 at Saint Francis U and 15 at Duquesne).

“We had success with receivers over the years and he fit right in with the long and fast receivers that have been in our system,” Schmitt said. “He’s a quiet hard-working young man. He took advantage of the opportunity and he fit in really well for us.”

Duquesne defensive back LeAndro DeBrito also accepted an invite to the Steelers’ rookie minicamp. DeBrito, who hails from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was first-team All-NEC in 2021.

“He’s a kid that developed for us,” Schmitt said. “He was a drop-down safety, and he played the pass and run equally well for us. His ability to do both is what got him the invitation. We got him from a junior college. He was a talented raw athlete, and he came here and continued to learn and fit our system. The last few years he played here, he was extremely successful.”

The Steelers rookie minicamp will be held at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex from May 13-15. The Bears will have their rookie minicamp from May 6-8.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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