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Ex-Cats in NFL: Baxter to start, Gronkowski with more TDs

Colin Baxter was with the Chargers in the preseason but didn't survive the final cut. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Former Arizona Wildcats center Colin Baxter has gone from being waived in the preseason by the San Diego Chargers to starting for the New York Jets.

The Jets picked up Baxter as insurance on a banged-up offensive line, and then had to turn to the undrafted rookie free agent last week when All-Pro center Nick Mangold left with a sprained ankle in the first quarter of a win over Jacksonville.

Baxter finished the game at center and is likely to start this week as the Jets look to go 3-0 in Sunday’s game at Oakland.

“I think Baxter did a great job considering how he was thrown in there,” coach Rex Ryan said at his Monday news conference. “He had a couple of mental mistakes, but I was proud of the way he jumped in there.”

Baxter started a school-record 48 consecutive games at Arizona, earning a reputation as the toughest and nastiest player on the offensive line. He carried on late last season through torn meniscus in his right knee before opting for surgery before the bowl game. The rehab cost him workout time in front of NFL scouts, one of the reasons why he went undrafted.

Now, he’ll be snapping to quarterback Mark Sanchez for one of the top teams in the AFC.

“It’s crazy,” he told reporters Monday. “It goes to show that if you keep working at it, you’ll get your shot, some sooner, some later. Mine just happened to be sooner.”

His replacement with the Wildcats, junior Kyle Quinn, said he receives “good luck” texts from Baxter before games.

“We text each other every now and again,” Quinn said. “He’s pretty busy and he’s fighting his tail off with the Jets.”

At AFC East New England, second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski has three touchdowns in two games, giving him 13 in 18 regular-season games. It will be a big week for Gronkowski and his older brother, Dan, also a tight end with the Patriots, as they return to play a game in their hometown of Buffalo.

Here is the list of ex-Cats in the NFL:

–Colin Baxter, C, New York Jets
–Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago
–Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville
–Antoine Cason, DB, San Diego
–Nick Folk, PK, New York Jets
–Chris Gronkowski, FB, Indianapolis
–Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
–Spencer Larsen, FB, Denver
–Earl Mitchell, DT, Houston
–Brooks Reed, LB, Houston
–D’Aundre Reed, DE, Minnesota
–Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville

Practice squads
–Lionel Dotson, DL, Buffalo
–Adam Grant, OT, Denver
–Nic Grigsby, RB, Miami
–Nate Ness, CB, Washington
–Fendi Onobun, TE, Seahawks

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates a second-half touchdown against San Diego last week. Photo by Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

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