Mavs in the pros: A look at some of the best Omaha athletes at the next level

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Jack Hoover 
SPORTS EDITOR 

Jake Guentzel, now of the Pittsburgh Penguins, during his days at UNO. Photo courtesy of Minda Haas Kuhlmann.

From the turf, to the hardwood, to the ice, UNO athletics has been fortunate to see some truly sensational athletes play out their college days as a Maverick. While these athletes leave an undeniable mark on the city and university of Omaha during their time in college, often it is what they do after graduation that defines who they are.

For the large majority of Omaha athletes, as it is with the large majority of all NCAA athletes, success after graduation is found away from the playing fields they once knew as Mavericks. According to the NCAA’s official statistics, less than 2% of all college athletes will play professionally.

For Omaha, a number of these former athletes have made their way into the professional ranks. Some Mavericks have tried their hand at playing professionally for a small amount of time before finding success in other fields, while others have become well established in their chosen sport. Here are some of the top former Mavericks playing professionally today.

Hockey: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Maverick hockey program produces, by far, the most professional athletes of any program at UNO, with 16 players having played in the National Hockey League and three currently playing. Of all the former Maverick hockey players currently plying their trade in the NHL, few can match the stature that Pittsburgh Penguin’s Jake Guentzel has achieved in the game.

Guentzel has achieved both team success and individual success in the pros, much like he did at UNO. As a Maverick, Guentzel helped lead Omaha to their first-ever appearance in the Frozen

Four in 2015 and scored 14 goals along the way. As a Penguin, Guentzel helped Pittsburgh capture the Stanley cup in 2017, where he scored 16 goals that season.

Football: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams

On the official roster of the Los Angeles Rams, kicker Greg Zurlein’s alma matter is listed as Missouri Western State, the school where he played for one year. Make no mistake, though, Zurlein was a Maverick before he was a Griffon.

As one of the last few remaining Maverick football players to still be playing in the National Football League, Zurlein is certainly carrying the torch well. After making a record 61 consecutive point after attempts as a Maverick, Zurlein has maintained his kicking accuracy as a professional—in eight seasons with the Rams, he has made 201 field goals and played in one Super Bowl.

Soccer: Xavier Gomez, Union Omaha

Since the founding of the Omaha men’s soccer program in 2011, players from the team have been selected in the Major League Soccer Super Draft, received minutes for their country’s national team and some have found themselves playing professionally across the globe.

While former Maverick Xavier Gomez has only been playing professionally for one season – he graduated from Omaha in 2018 – in his one season with Lansing Ignite in the USL League One, Gomez was a standout. He finished his first season with three goals to go along with five assists. Now back town and playing for Union Omaha, the sky seems to be the limit for Gomez.

Basketball: Tra-Deon Hollins, Grand Rapids Drive

Currently playing in the NBA G-League, Tra-Deon Hollins, who graduated from UNO in 2017, has spent the entirety of his career in the league. Originally drafted in the G-League draft by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with the 21st pick, Hollins has quickly established himself as one of the league’s top players.

During his time in Omaha, Hollins got the school record for most career steals with 234. He continued that trend in the G-League, as during his first season he was one of the top players in the league in steals-per-game. Hollins’ game has only improved since then. He is currently the league leader for steals-per-game with 2.6, and he is the second leading assister, with 8.2. Hollins’ potential only continues to grow, and it could simply be a matter of time before he graduates from the G-League and finds himself on an NBA roster.

 

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