The end of the 4 1/2-month NFL lockout kicked off a free-agent frenzy Tuesday, with Lowcountry products Garrett Chisolm and Jarriel King, both linemen from the University of South Carolina, among a bevy of undrafted state players finally allowed to sign contracts.
About 1,000 veterans, draft picks and undrafted rookies must be signed by 32 NFL clubs before the start of preseason games in a little more than two weeks, and hundreds of transactions must be completed in a matter of days instead of weeks, thanks to the lockout.
That process, which one NFL official called "organized chaos," began Tuesday as teams were allowed to sign their own
free agents, draft picks and undrafted players. The big names among veteran free agents can't sign until Thursday, the same day dozens of veterans will be cut.
In the meantime, players who went undrafted in April finally learned where they can pursue their NFL dreams.
Chisolm and King, teammates at USC, fall in that category. Chisolm, a 6-6, 312-pounder from West Ashley High School, signed with the Miami Dolphins. King, a 6-5, 324-pounder from North Charleston, signed with the New York Giants.
Former Citadel standout Erik Clanton, a defensive end, also was undrafted, but didn't wait until the end of the lockout to start his pro career, signing in May with Montreal of the CFL. He was let go by Montreal in June, but on Tuesday was picked up by Pittsburgh, where he will join former teammate Cortez Allen, a cornerback drafted in the fourth round by the Steelers.
"It's been a long time coming, from early obstacles in my college career to a great senior year," said Clanton said, who played at Spring Valley High in Columbia. "But I always knew I wanted to go to the NFL and always said that I would at some point, and that time is now.
"The fact that a former teammate of mine, Cortez Allen -- a guy that I bled, sweated and shed tears with the last five years -- will be there just makes a blessing that much more wonderful."
Clanton, a 6-3, 242-pounder, was second in the SoCon with nine sacks last year and third with 14 tackles for loss. His signing means The Citadel has four players with NFL teams, including receiver Andre Roberts and fullback Nehemiah Broughton with the Arizona Cardinals.
Other SoCon players signed Tuesday included receiver Adam Mims of Furman (Pittsburgh); defensive back Tommy Irvin of Wofford (Arizona); quarterback Scott Riddle (Jacksonville) and receiver Sean Jeffcoat (Arizona) of Elon; lineman Chris Harr of Chattanooga (Kansas City); and lineman Pat Illig of Wofford (Detroit).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.