Photo Courtesy of SUNY Cortland Athletics

CORTLAND, N.Y. (WENY) - The 2024 NFL draft officially concluded Saturday night. For the next couple of days teams will look to sign undrafted free agents and invite players to their rookie mini camps; on Saturday night, two Division III athletes from SUNY Cortland received a phone call. 

Wide receivers Cole Burgess and JJ Laap were both signed as undrafted free agents. Burgess signing with the Cincinnati Bengals and Laap landing with the Los Angeles Rams. 

SUNY Cortland is coming off a National Championship win as they beat the defending champions, North Central back in December. The pair led the team to a 14-1 overall record. Burgess was the top receiver for the Red Dragons with 87 receptions for 1,375 yards. Laap followed right behind him with 70 receptions for 1,291 yards. 

Burgess told WENY Sports he'll be heading to Cincinnati, Ohio for the Bengals rookie mini camp in a couple of weeks. He'll be there with the 2024 draft picks, invites and other free agents as they all hope to earn an NFL contract.

Until then, Burgess will be in meetings with the Bengals wide receivers coach where he'll spend the next few days looking over and learning the playbook. 

Burgess spoke about being a Division III athlete getting a shot to play professional football. 

"It is a childhood dream. I put this on my vision board years ago and I can finally check it off my wish list, my goals", says Burgess. "Coming from Division III you gotta have the numbers and then you gotta have the athleticism in your pro day to show the scouts that you can play at the next level. I feel like I did a good job with that. But also just not letting the stigma of Division III get into my head and knowing that if I'm good enough they're gonna find me so just keeping my head down and working and keeping the main thing the main thing and always having that goal in mind. There's nerves but I'm definitely ready, I mean this is the moment of truth. This whole time I've been in DIII I've always thought I could play with the DI guys so now its my time to go prove it and make a name for myself, I'm excited."

Burgess and Laap aren't the only local players that are headed to the NFL; Cornell offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 159th overall pick in the draft. On the defensive side, Ithaca College safety Derek Slywka was invited to rookie mini camps with the AFC and NFC champs, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.