Despite no UCLA players being selected in the 2009 draft, five Bruin seniors have made the first step toward a career in the National Football League.

Quarterback Pat Cowan, defensive tackle Brigham Harwell and tailback Kahlil Bell have recently signed free agent contracts with professional football teams following this past weekend’s NFL Draft. Cowan signed a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints, Harwell with the Washington Redskins and Bell with the Minnesota Vikings.

Also, punter Aaron Perez will attend New England Patriots’ mini-camp, and safety Bret Lockett will participate in mini-camp with the Cleveland Browns.

Sunday marked only the second time since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970 that UCLA was completely shut out of the annual draft.

Toward the end of spring practice, Cowan suffered a season-ending injury to his left ACL and missed the 2008 season. He is most remembered for leading the Bruins to a 13-9 upset victory over the USC Trojans during his sophomore campaign in 2006.

Harwell, who was named UCLA’s defensive MVP last season, was third on the squad with 6.0 tackles for loss and accumulated 26.5 tackles behind the line during his career. He started all 41 games he played in as Bruin.

Bell led the Bruins in rushing with 397 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games during the 2008 season. He ended his career with 1,741 yards, 20th among UCLA’s all-time rushers.

Perez ranked sixth in the NCAA and first in the Pac-10 with a 45.20-yard punting average this past season. He had 29 of his punts travel at least 50 yards, and 22 were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Lockett finished the 2008 season with 61 tackles, which ranked third on the team.

Compiled by Sara Salam, Bruin Sports senior staff.