The most decorated placekicker in Utah State history won’t be too far from his southern California home and his home of four-plus years — Cache Valley — when he embarks on his NFL career.
Dominik Eberle was one of four former Aggies who signed as undrafted free agents shortly after last Saturday’s seventh and final round of the 2020 NFL draft. Eberle and wide receiver Siaosi Mariner were picked up by the Las Vegas Raiders, tight end Caleb Repp was scooped up by the Atlanta Falcons and defensive end Tipa Galea’i will be reunited with former USU quarterback Jordan Love with the Green Bay Packers.
“Being able to sign for not only a great organization is always a dream, but then adding the ability to stay close to home is always a bonus,” Eberle said in an interview with The Herald Journal. “I love the area and I’m excited to get there. It’ll be really nice to have continued support from my loved ones around me and I’m beyond happy to have that kind of support system.”
A few different mock drafts had Eberle being selected in the later rounds of the annual event, but ultimately his name wasn’t announced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. However, it wasn’t a big deal to the native German, who didn’t have to wait long for the Raiders to finalize their interest.
“Being drafted is something that too many people get too focused on,” Eberle said. “It’s a title, but in the end provides you with the same opportunity as signing a (free agent) contract. In the end one’s gotta go in there and compete at the best of their ability no matter what. I’m happy to be a Raider and will give it my all. Every franchise in this sport is great and I’m happy to have found one that will give me the opportunity to compete.”
The Raiders reached out to Eberle early in the pre-draft process, which made their decision to sign him even more gratifying.
“I remained in contact with people from the Raiders throughout the entire process,” Eberle said. “I was able to work out with them prior to COVID-19 and being able to put a face to person evaluating you always makes the process better. Overall, I knew that the organization was great and wanted to go there if I was given the opportunity.”
Not only will the Redondo Beach, California, resident be close to home, a couple of his former teammates will be in Las Vegas to help make the transition easier. In addition to Mariner, Eberle will once again be teammates with former USU safety Dallin Leavitt, who has been a special teams standout for the Raiders the past two seasons. Leavitt was eventually able work his way to the Raiders’ active roster after originally signing as an undrafted free agent.
“Dallin is a great guy and I’ve been thoroughly happy to have seen him play the last two years,” said Eberle, whose family moved from Germany to southern California when he was 14 years old.
Former USU cornerback Nevin Lawson is also a Raider and is entering his second season with the organization. Lawson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2014, spent his first five seasons with the Detroit Lions.
“I don’t know Nevin personally, but seeing how he plays and hearing stories of when he was at USU, he seems like a great guy and I can’t wait to get connected with him,” Eberle said.
Eberle’s journey from high school, to USU to the NFL has been a memorable one. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder was lightly recruited at Redondo Union High School and ended up at Utah State as a preferred walk-on. The former star soccer player redshirted in 2015, saw limited playing time in 2016 and sparkled in his final three seasons as an Aggie.
From 2017-19, Eberle was a two-time honorable mention All-American, a two-time first-team all-Mountain West selection and a three-time all-conference honoree. No. 62 also excelled in the classroom as he was a three-time academic all-league selection and graduated last December with bachelor’s degrees in international business and marketing.
The son of Güenther Eberle and Carmen Romero-Eberle shattered seven Mountain West and eight Utah State records during his time as an Aggie. Additionally, he matched the NCAA’s single-game record with 24 points in USU’s 60-13 drubbing of New Mexico State on Sept. 8, 2018, at Maverik Stadium.
Eberle is USU’s career record-holder in points (359), made field goals (64), field goals of 50 or more yards (four) and made extra points (167). He has also established new Mountain West standards in career field, single-season points (141), field goals in a game (six), PATs in a season (75) and consecutive PATs (167). Eberle, who was successful on 64 of his 81 field goal attempts, never missed an extra point during his Aggie career.
Eberle, who was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award in 2017, has fond memories of his time in Logan. The Lou Groza Award is presently annually to the top placekicker in college football.
“It’s been an honor to wear the Aggie uniform and really want to thank everybody associated with USU football and Cache Valley in general,” Eberle said. “They took a kid from Germany right in and made me feel like home. Even though my playing time is over, I’ll be excited to root on my alma mater and former teammates, and want nothing more but success for them. I’ll proudly be an Aggie forever.”
The University of Utah graduate transfer parlayed a strong 2019 season with the Aggies into a FA contract offer from the Raiders.
During his three seasons with the Utes, Mariner caught 52 passes for 785 yards and four touchdowns. The Tustin, California, native eclipsed those numbers in his lone season in Logan as he led the Aggies in receptions (63), receiving yards (987) and receiving TDs (10). Only five other former Aggies have hauled in more scoring passes in a singles season than Mariner.
The 6-2, 195-pound wideout secured second-team all-conference honors last fall and also earned a spot on the academic all-MW squad. No. 80 ranked sixth in the conference in receiving yards and tied for the No. 2 spot in TD receptions.
Mariner, who made several spectacular receptions in his final collegiate season, had four games of 100-plus receiving yards. That’s the most by an Aggie since 2014.
Like his close friend Mariner, Repp made the most of his only season at USU. The Utah graduate transfer was one of the premier tight ends in the Mountain West in 2019 as he ranked in the top four on his team in receptions (36), receiving yards (455) and receiving TDs (four).
The athletic 6-5, 225-pounder turned a lot of heads with his sensational one-handed touchdown catch against Boise State, which was featured as the top play that night on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, was named to the academic all-MW team and was an honorable mention all-conference honoree.
In his three seasons at Utah, Repp saw limited playing time as a tight end and defensive end. He snared a pair of passes — both for touchdowns — against Oregon as a freshman for his only two receptions as a Ute, and recorded 21 tackles, 2.0 sacks and two forced fumbles in his final two seasons in Salt Lake City.
Several pundits had projected this two-time second-team all-Mountain West honoree as a late round draft pick. Although that didn’t happen, Galea’i will have the chance to once again play with his friend Love, who was Green Bay’s first-round draft selection. Ironically enough, both players wore the No. 10 jersey at Utah State.
“Got a ticket through the door,” the undersized but athletic edge rusher posted last Saturday on Twitter. “Go Pack Go!!!” Later that evening, Galea’i posted: “31 teams will regret it!”
During his two seasons at USU, Galea’i recorded 119 tackles, including 23.0 for a loss, and 15.5 sacks. He also intercepted two passes — one which he returned to the house in spectacular fashion on the road against BYU — forced three fumbles, recovered another one and blocked a field goal.
The native of Euless, Texas, led the Mountain West with 10.5 sacks in 2018. Galea’i bookended his junior season with two sacks against Michigan State and North Texas, and his 10.5 sacks were the most by an Aggie since 2005.
Galea’i redshirted the 20187 campaign at USU after transferring from Big 12 program TCU. The 6-5, 235-pounder was named Utah State’s Scout Team Co-Defensive MVP that year.
In his sophomore season at TCU, Galea’i contributed with 24 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and 3.0 sacks in 10 games. He also pounced on a pair of fumbles.
Galea’i graduated last December with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.