Oklahoma football: Former OU CB Parnell Motley impressing in Tampa

Four Oklahoma football players were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, but it is a Sooner who wasn’t drafted who may be having the best training camp of all.

Parnell Motley, from Washington, D.C., was a First-Team All-Big 12 cornerback last season but is one of many NFL hopefuls trying to earn his way on an NFL roster this season the hard way: as an undrafted free agent.

Motley had an up-and-down four-year career at Oklahoma, but his senior year last season was unquestionably his best. He recorded 41 tackles last season along with 13 pass breakups, an interception and five forced fumbles. He allowed just 43 percent of the passes thrown his direction to be caught.

Some considered Motley to be the best player last season on an Oklahoma defense that improved markedly over the previous season under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. And two of the OU players who were selected in the 2020 draft were defensive players (LB Kenneth Murray in the first round and DL Neville Gallimore in the third round).

Not only was Motley not drafted, he also did not receive an invite to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, which is the premier showcase every year of NFL Draft talent.

Motley has not let that stop him, however. He has made a strong impression on Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians practically from the first day he arrived in training camp. The former Sooner pass defender has picked off at least two Tom Brady passes in training camp drills, one coming in coverage against 6-foot, 5-inch Buccaneer receiver and Pro Bowler Mike Evans.

“If you’re trying to earn a job, picking off the greatest player of all-time is a good place to start,” Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley told Bill Haisten, sports columnist for the Tulsa World, and other reporters recently.

Unlike Murray and Gallimore, who signed lucrative NFL rookie contracts as early round draft picks, Motley is guaranteed just $35,000 from Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent.

Motley also has gained high praise from the Buccaneers’ Arians for his work on special teams.

It seems pretty clear, with just under two weeks before the kick off to the 2020 NFL season that Motley is going to overcome the odds and land a job with Tampa Bay. If not Tampa Bay, Motley should have shown enough to be able to catch on with another NFL team.

None of this really surprises Riley, who said he was shocked that Motley was overlooked in the draft.

“You’re not talking about a guy that (performed well last season) against a bunch of average receivers,” Riley said. “I mean, this guy was locked up on some of the best receivers in the country and did a number on just about all of them.”

There are currently 36 former Sooners on NFL rosters. Only eight came into the league as undrafted free agents.