FARGO — North Dakota State defensive lineman Derrek Tuszka made an impression during the recent NFL Scouting Combine with some of the best testing numbers for his position group.
That included a time of 6.87 seconds in the three-cone drill, which ranked first among defensive linemen.
The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Tuszka also clocked a 4.79 seconds in the 40-yard dash, good for seventh in his position group. He also had among the top performances for a defensive lineman in the 20-yard shuttle, 10-foot broad jump and vertical jump.
“I feel overall all my times and stuff were solid,” Tuszka said. “As competitive as I am, there’s always room for improvement. You wish you could always do a little bit better.”
Next up for Tuszka is NDSU’s Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 26. NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen said the school still planned on holding pro day on that date as of Friday, March 13. However, concerns from the coronavirus pandemic could alter those plans, Larsen added.
Matt Striegel, who represents Tuszka and is an NFL agent for Capital Sports Advisors, said Tuszka plans to participate in NDSU's pro day as long as the event is held.
Tuszka has been training at Landow Performance in the Denver area since mid-January, along with Bison tight end Ben Ellefson, who did not receive a Combine invite. Tuszka said he's been close with Ellefson, from Hawley, Minn., since their freshman years at NDSU.
“You get to do it with one of your best friends trying to live out this dream,” said Tuszka, who is from Warner, S.D. “It’s been great being able to have such a close friend and teammate through this whole process.”
Tuszka said he’s been training as if he’s going to run the 40-yard dash at NDSU’s Pro Day, but isn’t sure if he will run the 40 again in front of scouts in Fargo.
“I know I can run faster,” Tuszka said.
Tuszka will likely let his numbers stand for most of the testing he did at the Combine. He thought the way he performed during position work in Indianapolis was just as important as the numbers he posted during drills.
“I wanted the coaches to see how well I could move and show off my athleticism,” Tuszka said. “That was probably just as big. … I think a lot of teams were hoping I would stay under the radar. That Combine was a great opportunity and I showed them my athleticism.”
Tuszka had a productive final season with the Bison, finishing with 13.5 sacks and helping the team to a 16-0 Division I FCS national championship. He ended his career with 29.5 sacks, while playing in 53 games.
The Bison posted a 45-1 record with three national titles during Tuszka’s final three seasons. Tuszka credited NDSU defensive ends coach Buddha Williams and strength coach Jim Kramer for preparing him for the NFL Draft process.
“Coach Kramer, for one, just that developmental process with him. That’s helped me out tremendously,” Tuszka said. “Working with Buddha, that’s another reason I’ve been successful is the things that he has taught me.
“That’s where I think to myself I’m fortunate that I played at NDSU because that really prepared me.”
Tuszka said teams have talked to him about playing both defensive end and outside linebacker, depending on the defensive scheme. Heading into the Combine, Tuszka said he was viewed as a priority free agent, which are signed after the draft. Now, he feels he’s moved into a Day 3 draft selection. The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas. Rounds 4 through 7 are held on the third and final day of the event.
Dane Brugler, an NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic sports website, said Tuszka "certainly" helped himself with his performance at the Combine.
Brugler said Tuszka has the "best chance for an NDSU player to be drafted" in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Tuszka added the way he performed at the Combine could make NFL teams take a second look.
“It was a way to show all these other teams that you’ve got to go back and watch all my film,” Tuszka said. “Teams now have to go back and really watch my film and see how productive I am.”