Stock of Northern Michigan seniors, U.P. natives Anderson, Daniels rising leading up to NFL Draft

MARQUETTE – When Sault Ste. Marie native Zach Anderson wrapped up his collegiate football career at Northern Michigan University in November, he knew he wanted to play in the NFL.

There was one problem facing the Wildcat defensive lineman, however. Nobody outside the Upper Peninsula and GLIAC – specifically the NFL – knew who he was.

“I wanted to play in the NFL, I just needed to get looks,” Anderson said.

“I had to do anything I could just to get a look. I knew if there was a scout there and he sees me work out and run, he’ll at least give me a look.”

Via an MVP performance in a college all-star bowl game, two extended workouts at NFL-sponsored regional combines in Cleveland and Dallas and a pro day at Grand Valley State, Anderson got his looks from NFL scouts.

The result has been a cell phone that won’t stop buzzing with calls from NFL franchises leading up to this week’s draft Thursday through Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

While Anderson has no expectation of hearing his name called during ESPN and NFL Network’s primetime coverage of Rounds 1-3 on Thursday and Friday, the hope now is to see “Zach Anderson, DL, Northern Michigan” flash across the bottom line on Saturday during late afternoon coverage of rounds 4-7.

“Going into wanting to play pro ball, I never even dreamed of getting drafted,” Anderson said. “I just wanted a chance. I just wanted to get invited to a rookie mini camp to try to get my foot in the door.

“Now I have so many teams that have so much interest, they are fighting for what round they want to take me in the draft. There are rumors that I’m going in the sixth or seventh round, which I hope so.”

It all started for Anderson with two teams – the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs – following a three-sack defensive MVP performance in the National Bowl on Dec. 9 in Lehigh Valley, Pa. That prompted him to hire Perez Sports Associates to represent him.

On Feb. 17, Anderson paid $225 to participate in an NFL regional combine at the Cleveland Browns’ training facility in Berea, Ohio where he ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time.

Only four defensive lineman or linebackers would run faster times a week later at the invitation-only combine in Indianapolis.

Anderson’s performance in Berea not only gained him an extended workout with the Bears and Browns on linebacker drills, but it earned the Wildcat one of 219 invitations to the April 7 super-regional at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

He had picked up six more teams following the GLIAC pro day on March 11, but it was the super regional where he participated in defensive lineman drills, followed by four additional hours of linebacker drills, that really catapulted Anderson’s value.

“After Dallas, it hit the fan,” Anderson said.

Anderson, who measured 6-foot-2, 278 pounds in Cleveland before trimming down to 269 for Dallas, said he has been in contact with at least 10 teams leading up to the draft. On Monday, he received calls from the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, as well as from Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi.

‘We’ll see how things unfold,’ is a common phrase Anderson has heard during his conversations with NFL player personnel, followed by, ‘hopefully if you’re still sitting there, we’re going to pick you up.’

“A team could tell me I’m going to get drafted in the first round and if I don’t get drafted at all, I still wouldn’t be disappointed at all,” Anderson said. “Coming into it, all I wanted was an opportunity, just an invitation to camp. As long as I get an invitation to camp, I won’t be let down. Drafted or not drafted, it doesn’t matter to me.

“Anyone that wants to draft me, they’re going to get a hard-hitting Yooper ready to play.”

Anderson has been working out at Advantedge Training in Marquette alongside another Yooper teammate from NMU, Jace Daniels of Escanaba.

Like Anderson, Daniels is also attempting to land himself on an NFL roster, though he isn’t expecting to hear his name called this weekend. He and his agent, also Perez, will be working the phones as soon as the draft concludes, however, to sign as an undrafted preferred free agent.

The NMU senior 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman has been in contact with the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

According to Daniels, the Packers told him he rested somewhere between the PFA status and rookie mini camp invitees. His status with other teams has been across the board.

“After the season, I knew I needed to get stronger, bigger,” Daniels said. “I did that and showed that at the (GLIAC pro day). Talking with teams after, they were really happy with what I did. That opened my eyes more to the fact that this could actually have more of a chance than what I thought.”

Daniels said he and his agent, also Perez, are planning to have a conference call tonight to discuss their strategy for Saturday following the Colts’ pick at 254, when the undrafted free agent signing frenzy begins.

There’s bound to be a few depth charts involved as Daniels and Perez analyze the center position.

Having been told he doesn’t have the arm length to play offensive tackle in the NFL, Daniels is being looked at as center by most teams, he said.

While the Eskymo’s experience is at guard and tackle, Daniels is taking the same approach as his teammate and being versatile.

“I’ll go at whatever position they want,” Daniels said.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.