Lowry grad Jace Billingsley signs free agent contract with Detroit Lions
Northern Nevada has been home to fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
Those far Western teams might have to take a step back to the Motor City. Lowry High School graduate and Eastern Oregon star Jace Billingsley signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions on Saturday night following the NFL Draft.
Billingsley was not selected in the seven-round draft, but was quickly gobbled up by the Lions shortly after the draft. Billingsley was one of 13 rookie free agents signed after the draft. Three other players who play the same position that Billingsley does were invited to mini camp — Jay Lee (Baylor), Simms McElfresh (Appalachian State) and Quinshad Davis (North Carolina).
“I can’t wait to get to work,” Billingsley said. “I am grateful for Detroit giving me this opportunity to further my career. It is a dream come true. There is still a lot of work to do and it’s only beginning. The goal is to be playing on Sundays.”
Billingsley had an impressive outing at the University of Nevada’s pro day last month, recording a time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash and hoisting 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
During the 2015 college campaign with Eastern Oregon, Billingsley finished fourth in the country in the NAIA with 1,931 all-purpose yards. He tallied 863 rushing yards on 176 carries, 506 receiving yards on 57 catches, and scored 13 touchdowns for a team-high 78 points.
Fans of Truckee football remember Billingsley well.
His senior season in 2011 — the year the Wolverines won their third consecutive state title — the shifty running back gouged Truckee’s vaunted defense for 163 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns in the 27-12 Truckee win.
Billingsley finished that season with 2,360 yards rushing on 201 carries, an average of 11.74 yards per touch.
“Congratulations to Jace and the Billingsley family. Much respect,” Truckee football coach Josh Ivens posted on the team’s Facebook page. “I know Jace gave us fits and was a nightmare to game plan for. I wish him the best moving forward.”
In 2012 at Eastern Oregon, Billingsley earned second-team all-conference honors as a wide receiver. As a freshman, Billingsley played in 10 games. He had 64 receptions for 633 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 9.9 yards per catch. For the year he had 752 all-purpose yards.
In 2013, Billingsley was named a second team AFCA-NAIA Coaches’ All-American selection at wide receiver. He earned first-team, all-conference honors at wide receiver and second-team, all-conference kick returner. He was named academic all-conference and recorded a school record 69 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns. He returned 13 kickoffs for 370 yards and one touchdown and collected 1,248 all-purpose yards on the season.
In 2014, Billingsley was named first-team, all-conference special teams kick returner. He returned 18 kickoffs averaging 25.9 yards per return. He rushed for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 59 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns.
Billingsley leaves for the Lions this week as rookie mini camps get underway around the NFL.
“It’s time to get to work,” Billingsley said. “We will not be in full pads, but I will be with the coaches and learning the playbook. I am excited and can’t wait to get going. I can’t thank everyone enough that has helped me. I am going to do my best to make Winnemucca and Eastern Oregon proud.”
— Sierra Sun Sports Editor Sylas Wright contributed to this story.