MISSOULA — Sammy Akem has earned his first shot with a professional football team after a record-setting career at Montana.

The former Grizzlies wide receiver has signed with the Philadelphia Stars, the runner-up in the inaugural season of the new United States Football League. His agent, George Holley, announced the news Wednesday, and Stars head coach/general manager Bart Andrus, a former Griz quarterback, confirmed the signing with 406mtsports.com Thursday.

"It was real simple for us," Andrus said. "He was available. He has great statistics at Montana. He fits our mold in terms of what we’re looking for in certain wide receiver positions. He’s very similar to a guy that played for us and has done well, Jordan Suell out of Southern Oregon. Jordan went to pro days, never got a chance NFL-wise because he doesn’t have that over-the-top speed. Sammy is similar to that. But what he does is he’s a disciplined receiver, runs good routes and is willing to block."

Andrus was tipped off about Akem by former Griz wide receiver Brandon Maguire, who is the Stars' defensive line coach, he said. Maguire was in Missoula a couple weeks ago and met with UM defensive line coach Barry Sacks, who played with Andrus at UM in the late 1970s, and head coach Bobby Hauck.

Akem was working his way back from a broken collarbone when the USFL held its draft in February. He went through UM's pro day in April but didn't get a pro shot. Andrus later saw that former Big Sky players could excel in the USFL when ex-Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus led the Stars to the championship game in July.

"He's the first Montana guy in the whole league, so it's only fitting that it comes with a Montana head coach," Andrus said of Akem. "For me, in general, just because I know the Big Sky Conference and that level of play, I know guys get overlooked. He's going to take advantage of the opportunity."

Akem is the only player in UM history to rank in the top four for career receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, native is tied for first with Marc Mariani with 29 touchdown grabs, is third with 191 catches and is fourth with 2,711 receiving yards.

Akem was a two-time All-Big Sky honoree, picking up second-team all-conference recognition as a sophomore and junior. His best statistical year was his sophomore campaign in 2018, when he caught 59 passes for 879 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"He’s a Montana Griz, and I’m going to take a look at those guys always," Andrus said. "He’s been in a great college program. I know his coaches, I know how demanding they are on the field and off the field. Not only is he good that way, but he also goes beyond in the community and he’s just a really well-spoken young man. We’re looking forward to seeing him on the field."

Akem makes it four players from UM's 2019 quarterfinal team currently on a pro roster. Wide receiver Samori Toure is an NFL rookie on the Green Bay Packers' 53-man roster. Offensive lineman Dylan Cook is an NFL rookie on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. Quarterback Dalton Sneed recently finished his first season in the Indoor Football League with the Sioux Falls Storm.

"Good things come to those who earn it," Holley wrote on Twitter. "Congrats."

"I'm blessed," Akem tweeted in response.

Frank Gogola is the Senior Sports Reporter at the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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