FARGO — St. John's offensive lineman Ben Bartch is holding his own against some of the top college football players in the country this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Bartch has created a buzz during practice for the all-star game, which features the top NFL Draft prospects for players who have completed college eligibility.

Bartch has performed well against players from the top NCAA Division I FBS schools during practices, according to multiple draft analysts covering the event. Bartch plays in the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the same league as the Concordia Cobbers.

"He was a kid that we certainly noticed," Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. "He has good feet, he's a big, strong kid."

The Senior Bowl is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25., at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, and is being televised on NFL Network.

Bartch first played tight end for the Johnnies before he became an offensive lineman. Bartch, from Dayton, Ore., played left tackle for St. John's this past season and helped the Johnnies advance to the Division III semifinals, losing 35-32 against Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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"It speaks volumes for Division III," Horan said. "We are seeing more and more great athletes coming to play at our level. There's been a lot of great athletes in our league."

Horan added "that makes us all proud" to see a player from the MIAC making a bid to play in the NFL.

Former Concordia wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, who is with the Carolina Panthers, is the most recent MIAC player to reach the NFL, but Zylstra was not drafted. Gustavus wide receiver Ryan Hoag is the last MIAC player to be selected in the NFL Draft in 2003. Hoag was "Mr. Irrelevant," a moniker given to the final player selected in the NFL Draft each season.

Here a sampling of MIAC players who have made NFL rosters in recent history (via MIAC assistant commissioner BJ Pickard):

  • Brandon Zylstra, Concordia (Minnesota/Carolina, 2018-19)
  • Blake Elliott, St. John’s (Minnesota, 2004, DNP injured)
  • Ryan Hoag, Gustavus (5 teams, 2003-08)
  • Ryan Collins, St. Thomas (7 teams, 1999-03)
  • Jim Gustafson, St. Thomas (Minnesota, 1986-89)
  • Neal Guggemos, St. Thomas (Minnesota/NYG, 1986-88)

Could Bartch be playing his way into being selected in April's draft? Below is a sampling of the reactions to Bartch's performance during Senior Bowl practices:

St. John's offensive lineman Ben Bartch, right, has been making his mark during Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala. Capri Potter / St. John's Athletics
St. John's offensive lineman Ben Bartch, right, has been making his mark during Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala. Capri Potter / St. John's Athletics