ABILENE, Texas - Two of the most electrifying offensive performers in ACU football history and one of the men working for them in the trenches of the offensive line had their NFL dreams come true Saturday night shortly after the end of the league's annual draft.
Taylor Gabriel and Charcandrick West -- who together combined to score 66 touchdowns and wrack up 7,703 all-purpose yards -- each signed preferred free agent deals and will attend rookie minicamps in the next few weeks. Also signing a free agent deal late Saturday night was former offensive lineman Will Latu, who started at both left tackle and right tackle in 2012 and 2013.
Gabriel signed a deal with the Cleveland Browns, whose moves to get Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Thursday made them the early headliner of the draft. West and Latue each signed deals with the Kansas City Chiefs, which reached the AFC playoffs last season in their first season under head coach Andy Reid.
Gabriel will join a Browns team whose running backs are now coached by Wildcat legend Wilbert Montgomery. The longtime NFL assistant is second on ACU's all-time all-purpose yardage list with 4,569 yards behind Bernard Scott (5,712 yards) and in front of Darrell Cantu-Harkless (third with 4,432 yards), Gabriel (fourth with 3,880 yards) and West (fifth with 3,823 yards).
Gabriel finished his career second in ACU history in catches (215), yards (3,027) and touchdown receptions (27). He is second in catches and yards behind Jerale Badon (235 for 3,311 yards) and is tied with Clyde Gates and Arthur Culpepper with 27 touchdown receptions, three behind all-time leader Johnny Knox (30 from 2007-08).
His 15 catches in the loss at New Mexico state set a new single-game ACU record, breaking the old mark of 14 set by Badon against Tarleton State in 2006. His 188 yards receiving in that game set a new career-best and is the 16th-best single-game performance in ACU history.
Gabriel's 73 catches in 2013 are tied for with Badon (2007) for the second-most in a season in ACU history, and his 1,060 yards are the seventh-best single-season total in ACU history. His 10 touchdown receptions in 2013 tie his own mark in 2011, as well as that of Reggie McGowan (1986), Angel Alvarez (1993) and Cle Montgomery (1977) for the ninth-most in a season in program history.
His 31 career touchdowns are tied with Knox for the sixth-most in program history, and his 186 career points are tied with Knox for the ninth-most in program history.
West finished his quietly productive career as the only player in ACU football history to finish with at least 2,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 750 kickoff return yards in a career.
West finished with 2,058 rushing yards (10th on ACU's career list), 1,007 receiving yards and 758 kickoff return yards (none in 2013). West finished his career with 35 touchdowns(fourth on the all-time touchdown list) and 210 career points scored. He is sixth on ACU's career points list.
He finished his career with seven 100-yard rushing games, including four in 2013.
With Gabriel, West and Latu now on NFL rosters, the Wildcats have six active players in the league with those two joining Danieal Manning (Cincinnati), Daryl Richardson (St. Louis) and Clyde Gates (New York Jets). Scott is an unrestricted free agent after spending the last half of the 2013 season with Baltimore.
The Wildcats also have several players in the Canadian Football League: quarterback Mitchell Gale, offensive lineman Tony Washington, defensive end Aston Whiteside and linebacker Major Culbert with Toronto, and wide receiver Raymond Radway with Calgary. Cantu-Harkless had a workout with Calgary in March and the CFL could be an option for him as well.
Also, former ACU receiver Jamaine Sherman, who played for the Wildcats in 2011, was signed to a free agent deal by the Rams. Sherman, who caught 13 passes in 2011 for ACU, played for the Alderson Broaddus club team in 2012 before playing senior season at East Texas Baptist in 2013 where he caught 62 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns.
Information for this story provided by Abilene Christian Athletics.