Monmouth Hawks football
Jaden Shirden, right, earlier this season. (JSN file photo by Riley Lorenz)

Monmouth's Jaden Shirden opts for NFL Draft while Dymere Miller enters transfer portal

WEST LONG BRANCH – Two of the best players to ever suit up for Monmouth University have played their last football game for the Hawks.

It was widely expected that star players running back Jaden Shirden and wideout Dymere Miller would most likely be moving on from the Hawks with FBS schools dangling NIL deals in their faces. So it came as no real surprise when they both made their announcements via X, formerly Twitter, earlier this week. But what was surprising was Shirden declaring for the NFL Draft when most pundits were predicting he would follow Miller’s path and throw his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Regardless of the route Shirden and Miller decided to take, it’s a gut punch to a Monmouth program that already has its hands full as they attempt to climb the Coastal Athletic Association hierarchical ladder and take the program to the next level.

Behind epic seasons by Shirden and Miller, the Hawks led the CAA and ranked 13th in the country in total offensive yardage per game averaging 431.5 yards. But with starting quarterback Marquez McCray, a graduate transfer last season who exceeded expectations, out of options, the offense is now looking at a major rebuild heading into next season.

On Wednesday, McCray announced on Twitter that he was also declaring for the NFL Draft. McCray completed 212-of-327 passes for 2602 yards and 21 touchdowns with only six interceptions this season.

In 2022, Shirden led the FCS in total rushing yards (1,722), yards per carry (8.36) and rushing yards per game (156.5) along with 13 rushing touchdowns, including a 95-yard scoring jaunt. Following the season, he was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous first team FCS All-American selection in nearly every media outlet.

With teams game planning around him this season and stacking the box against him, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Shirden again led the FCS in rushing yardage with 1,478 yards and his 134.4 rushing yards per game also led the FCS. He had 10 rushing touchdowns and added 20 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown. For the second straight season he was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a Walter Payton Award finalist. All-American selections haven’t been announced yet, but Shirden is a sure-fire candidate for the award.

For his career, Shirden rushed for 3,697 yards – third in program history – and ran for 26 career touchdowns. He had 14 career rushing touchdowns of at least 50 yards, 17 career 100 plus-yard games and six career 200 plus-yard games.

After a breakout season in 2022 when he led Monmouth in receptions (55), yards (820) and touchdowns (seven), Miller was a second team All-CAA selection. In 2023, however, Miller took his game to a whole nother level of excellence. The 6-foot-0, 180-pound Miller shattered Monmouth’s records for single-season receptions (90), single-season receiving yards (1,293), single-game receiving yards (333) and single-season 100 plus-yard games (6). He led the FCS in receiving yards and receiving yards per game (117.5) and was a first team All-CAA selection and Walter Payton Award finalist with All-American honors most assuredly waiting for him.

There’s been no shortage of suitors so far for Miller’s services with Rutgers, Texas Tech, FAU, Pitt, East Carolina, UConn, North Texas, UAB and Memphis having already extended offers to him.

In addition to the aforementioned, cornerback Mike Reid, who led the team with eight pass breakups and had one interception, announced he was entering the transfer portal along with reserve offensive linemen Kyrik Mason and Adrian Hawkins, who would’ve been in the mix for starting positions next season.

Such is life in the era of transfer portals and NIL deals in college football these days with lure of fame and fortune now front and center.