Cougars in the Pros -- Week Six

Aaron Francisco recorded his first career NFL interception in the first quarter of Chicago's 24-23 comeback victory over Arizona.

Former BYU Cougar offensive standouts John Tait and Gabe Reid may have come out on top in the victory column on Monday Night Football in week six of the NFL season, but Aaron Francisco still stole the show. Francisco recorded his first career NFL interception in the first quarter of Chicago's 24-23 comeback victory over Arizona. Francisco, however, was not done there. After making the leaping grab, Francisco barely kept his feet in bounds before returning the pick the other way. Francisco broke several tackles and survived a blow from fellow BYU alum Tait before finally getting dragged down after a forty-four yard return. When asked if he knew Tait was one of the Bears' would-be tacklers, Francisco said he was too excited and motivated to reach the end zone to notice. "I wasn't really paying attention because I was so excited, but I do remember getting hit by a big lineman before getting tackled. But I didn't know it was Tait. I was trying my hardest to get in the end zone."

Francisco ended the night with three tackles (one solo) and one pass deflection to go with his interception and forty-four yard return. Despite the tough loss, Francisco said his first career interception was special. "It felt great. Not only to get it, but to get it on Monday Night Football with my family and my dad at the game, it was awesome."

Francisco's journey to this point -- to be sure -- has not been easy. In less than two years he has gone from being undrafted out of BYU, to making the Cardinals' practice squad, to playing on special teams, to seeing regular playing time. "It's been a long road for me. I think I've progressed pretty well and learned a lot. The tough road has made me better and stronger and a better player." Francisco's journey also has enabled him to give advice to rookie wide receiver Todd Watkins, who currently is on the Cardinals' practice squad. "I gave Todd a little advice when he started out. I told him to get on as many special teams as you can; that's the ticket. That's how I made it -- through special teams."

The camaraderie among former BYU players in the NFL also has helped Francisco. "We all keep in touch. We'll talk when we play against each other or call each other just to check in. I just talked to Reno Mahe the other day and talked to Shaun Nua when we played the Steelers in the preseason. I talked to Gabe Reid after the game [on Monday]." Francisco also finds time to keep tabs on the current BYU football squad. "I just talked to Jim Hamblin (BYU football academic coach) and he was telling me about how well the team is doing. I know they won the last three games and are on a roll. I hear about them all the time. I hope they can beat Nevada-Las Vegas this week."

Another former BYU defensive standout, Brett Keisel, had a productive week as the Pittsburgh Steelers got back to their winning ways by routing the Kansas City Chiefs 45-7. He recorded four tackles, including two solo, in the victory. Keisel has started every game for Pittsburgh this year and leads all Steelers linemen with fifteen total and eleven solo tackles. Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke also registered a tackle in the victory. A third defensive lineman with BYU ties, Shaun Nua, is on the Steelers' practice squad.

Former BYU coach and current Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow saw the Titans earn their first victory of the season by downing Washington 25-22. The Titans offense, led by a rookie quarterback, racked up 339 total yards in the victory. Titans linebacker Colby Bockwoldt had two tackles (one solo) in the victory. The Baltimore Ravens and head coach Brian Billick remain in first place in the AFC North despite a narrow 23-21 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, head coach and former Cougar quarterbacks coach Mike Holmgren and his Seattle Seahawks also remained in first place in the NFC West by downing St. Louis 30-28. Seattle tight ends coach Jim Lind coached at BYU with Holmgren. Former Cougar tight end Itula Mili started and had two receptions for eighteen yards in Seattle's victory.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Cincinnati Bengals 14-13 and earned their first victory of 2006. Tampa Bay tight end Doug Jolley played in the Bucs' victory. Rookie full back Fahu Tahi and offensive lineman Scott Jackson are on the Bengals' and Buccaneers' practice squads, respectively.

Keeping with the theme of narrow defeats in week six, the Buffalo Bills were edged 20-17 by the Detroit Lions. Bills defensive end Ryan Denney continued his solid play with two tackles (one solo) in the loss. Denney ranks second on the Bills with three sacks on the season. Younger brother John Denney and his Miami Dolphins also lost a close one to the New York Jets 20-17. Denney, the Dolphins' first team long snapper, registered one solo tackle on special teams in the defeat. Despite snapping the ball to the punter, Denney was the first one to Jets' punt returner Tim Dwight and made the tackle after a return of only six yards.

The New Orleans Saints continued their Cinderella season in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by narrowly defeating head coach Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles 27-24. Philadelphia offensive lineman Scott Young played in the loss, while all-purpose back Reno Mahe remained sidelined with an injury. Former Cougar offensive lineman Ben Archibald is on the Saints' practice squad.

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