One minute he's playing cards with his family. The next Tyrone Holmes is an NFL player.

While trying to keep his mind off the third day of the NFL draft as it rolled into its afternoon session, Holmes got the call. The highly decorated Montana pass rusher is headed to Jacksonville after the Jaguars selected him in the sixth round Saturday.

Even when he felt his phone begin to buzz, Holmes didn't want to get ahead of himself.

"I knew in the later rounds teams will start calling to get guys in as free agents so I wasn't trying to get my hopes up too much," began Holmes, who watched the Saturday portion of the draft off and on from his Eagle Point, Oregon home. "But when I found out that they wanted to pick me I was pretty excited.

"I can't even remember exactly the words that they said because I was freaking out."

Holmes's Montana teammate wide receiver Jamaal Jones was not drafted, but signed a free agent deal with San Diego in the minutes following the draft's conclusion. Outside linebacker Herbert Gamboa also accepted a non-contract invitation to rookie mini camp -- at safety -- with Kansas City, the same offer extended to receiver Ben Roberts from Tennessee.

Holmes, who led the FCS with 18 sacks from his defensive end position last season, went off the board with the 181st overall pick. He becomes the first Griz drafted since 2014 when linebacker and Missoula native Jordan Tripp was picked by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round.

Coincidentally, Tripp now plays for the Jaguars, a fact not lost on Holmes.

"I already talked to him and that'll be exciting. It'll be nice to know someone down there," Holmes said.

Holmes was named STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year following his senior season in 2015 and leaves Montana in second place in both quarterback sacks and tackles for loss in program history. He trails only current Arizona Cardinal Zack Wagenmann with 34.5 sacks and 49.5 tackles for loss at UM.

But many NFL pundits and analysts projected the 6-foot-3, 253-pounder as a late-round, stand-up outside linebacker. Even his draft profile and the bio that flashed across the screen on ESPN labeled the future Jaguar as an OLB.

That's not exactly accurate, Holmes said, at least based on the discussions he's had with Jacksonville so far. They see the former Griz as the "Leo" D-end in their 4-3 defensive front, one that features four down linemen and three linebackers.

The Leo in Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley's system is the weak-side edge rusher, whose main focus is getting to the quarterback.

"They're a 4-3, so I'll be an actual end," Holmes said. "I don't think that their end will be standing up. Pretty much the same thing as college."

Holmes made a pre-draft visit to Jacksonville earlier this month, according to the Florida Times-Union, after Holmes emerged on the Jaguars' radar with a solid week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa, Florida in January.

He was not invited to the NFL combine in February.

The Jags loaded up on defensive talent in the draft, selecting defensive players with each of their first five picks, including Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey at No. 5 overall in the first round Thursday. Jacksonville also picked UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack, a projected first-rounder, early in the second and Maryland defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in the third. 


Holmes's selection continues Montana's strong tradition of producing NFL talent, especially on the defensive side. The Griz had 11 players in the league as of the end of last season.

Montana has now had nine players drafted dating back to 2008, Holmes the seventh of those who played defense in Missoula. Each of the past five drafted, all of whom were selected since 2010, played defense.

Holmes was the third of four Big Sky Conference players drafted Saturday. Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew was the first, going off the board in the fourth round to the Detroit Lions at pick No. 111.

Killebrew was expected to be one of three Thunderbirds drafted along with cornerback LeShaun Sims, who went in the fifth round to the Tennessee Titans, and defensive end James Cowser, who was not drafted. Cowser, who beat out Holmes for the Big Sky defensive MVP last year, signed with Oakland as a free agent.

Southern Utah won its first conference championship in 2015.

Montana State tight end Beau Sandland was picked by the Carolina Panthers with the second-to-last selection of the draft, No. 252 in the seventh round. He was the 20th and final FCS player drafted, a club that began when North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz went No. 2 overall to Philadelphia on Thursday.


NOTE: Former Montana offensive lineman Joe Dahl, who was a redshirt freshman in Missoula in 2011 before transferring to Washington State, was picked in the fifth round by the Lions.

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