FARGO -- The long afternoon watching the NFL Draft came and went for a few local college football players hoping to see their name on a big board. They may not have gotten the call they were hoping for, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get an opportunity.
Four players signed free agent deals not long after the draft ended late Saturday afternoon. North Dakota State linebackers Nick DeLuca and Chris Board signed with Tennessee and Baltimore respectively, Bison tight end Connor Wentz inked a deal with San Francisco and Minnesota State Moorhead receiver Damon Gibson signed with Green Bay.
DeLuca appeared to have the best shot of going in the first seven rounds. For a while, he was listed on ESPN’s “best available player” status for inside linebackers. One that was drafted, Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy, has Fargo ties and was taken in the sixth round by Tampa Bay. Cichy’s father, Steve, and grandfather Sid Cichy were part of Fargo Shanley football juggernauts in the 1970s.
Jack Cichy is from St. Paul.
DeLuca and Board helped lead the Bison to their sixth Division I FCS national title in seven years. DeLuca played in the Senior Bowl at the end of January, participated in the NFL Combine and had at least one private workout with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Gibson is expected to transition to tight end as he tries to make an NFL roster with Green Bay.
Gibson had an idea that the Packers were the team he would end up with as draft was coming to a close on Saturday afternoon. He received a call from Green Bay in the sixth round expressing interest in possibly drafting Gibson. After the draft had completed, the Packers were right there with an offer.
“The Packers showed some interest the last few days and they were the first ones to have an offer ready,” said Gibson, who is from Beardsley, Minn., and grew up a Minnesota Vikings fan.
Gibson had 54 receptions for 649 yards and three touchdowns in eight games last fall, missing the final part of his senior season with an ankle injury. During his junior season with MSUM, he had 90 catches for 1,549 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Gibson said he’s headed to Green Bay next Thursday.
“They just told me to get ready to get over the Green Bay and learn the playbook,” Gibson said. “I’m pretty excited about it. I was kind of on edge the whole day. It was pretty hectic. … It was more kind of relief.”
Wentz signed as a free agent with the 49ers and will attend the team’s mini-camp. The 6-3, 250-pound tight end/fullback was money in the red zone with five of his 13 catches going for touchdowns. He’s also considered a standout point-of-attack blocker on the line of scrimmage.
South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Wieneke signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.