The final days leading up to the NFL draft have felt bizarre for guys like Caleb Kidder and Brady Gustafson.

There's no more tackles or touchdowns to put on tape for scouts, no more opportunities to get in front of coaches for workouts. All that can be done has been, and Montana's former stars are left to themselves to try and manage their anxieties.

For distraction, Kidder buried himself in his final class at the university, Financial Markets and Institutions, to complete his degree in finance. Gustafson played a few rounds of golf and soothed himself with vintage video games.

All between strenuous workouts of course.

"I'm ready to play football. I'm over this waiting around," said Kidder, the Grizzlies' beastly defensive lineman the past few years. "Just working out every day and not knowing what I'm gonna do or where I'm gonna go. I'm just excited to see where I'm going to end up so I can strap on the pads and play football again."

A handful of Grizzlies will find out what the football future holds this weekend. The NFL draft started Thursday evening with the selection of the first round. The second and third rounds will play out on Friday. The fourth through seventh rounds are picked Saturday, and it's the back end of the draft that may present some opportunity for the Montana boys.

While a year ago Gustafson was being labeled the next Carson Wentz, 2016's No. 2 overall pick out of North Dakota State, the hype on him has softened and he now projects as a potential seventh rounder or post-draft NFL free agent. The same is true of Kidder, who said a few teams have told him his name will be on their draft board.

Whether the Griz are selected or end up scooped up in free agency is impossible to predict and will depend on how the early chunk of the 253 possible draft picks plays out.

It's speculation and more speculation right now, which can get exhausting if you let it, Gustafson said. It's best to focus elsewhere until the phone actually rings.

"Playing quarterback at a place like this university, it's awesome because there's a big crowd and there's always people looking for you. Being under a microscope like it's been in Missoula the past few years, I'd say that's really prepared me for the next step," offered Gustafson, UM's two-year starting quarterback.


A handful of teams have reached out with interest in both Gustafson and Kidder, the latter even receiving a call from the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of his phone interview for this story. But neither got a chance to work out for potential employers outside of Montana's pro day back on March 13, a session attended by six NFL scouts.

The same is not true for former Griz defensive backs J.R. Nelson and Yamen Sanders. Both players were in Los Angeles earlier this month with invites to a local workout with the Rams after stellar performances at UM's pro day.

They rubbed shoulders with Pac-12 standouts from USC and UCLA while getting one last chance to impress.

"There were big-time guys with some status and, even if they do it subconsciously, they look down on the FCS guys. We always have to prove ourselves, so it was good to go out there in front of coaches and just play football," said Nelson, Montana's starting cornerback the past two seasons.

"Once Yamen and I started doing football things, the coaches and even other players were like, 'Dang, these guys from Montana, they're no scrubs.'"

The Griz don't have a near-sure-thing in this draft class like last season's FCS Defensive Player of the Year Award winner Tyrone Holmes, who was eventually selected in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. But even if a Montana player doesn't have his name flash across the screen on ESPN on Saturday evening, there's a high likelihood a few former Griz players will still get that phone call they're been dreaming of since they were kids.

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