Zack Wagenmann

This file photo shows Zack Wagenmann playing for the University of Montana.

For an athlete, there's never a good time for an injury.

One right before the NFL Draft, though? That might be the worst possible timing for a football player.

Zack Wagenmann, the former Montana defensive end who terrorized quarterbacks and sported the Grizzlies' No. 37 legacy number as a senior last fall, broke his right foot earlier this month during pre-draft workouts.

Wagenmann's agent Noel LaMontagne confirmed media reports Thursday to the Missoulian that Wagenmann was injured in a private workout with an NFL team on April 10 in Missoula. The Griz DE was hosting his final private workout of "a handful" this spring, LaMontagne said.

LaMontagne declined to specify for which team Wagenmann was performing.

A highly-regarded foot and ankle specialist operated on Wagenmann on April 14 in the Phoenix area, a tiny screw implanted in the foot to assure correct healing. LaMontagne said eight weeks is the expected recovery time from the injury -- a break similar to a Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal, though without any ligament damage or strain that often accompanies such a fracture.

"He could be tackling somebody in 50 to 60 days from the date of the 14th," said LaMontagne, an agent with Baltimore-based Eastern Athletic Services who works out of Los Angeles.

ESPN's Adam Caplan first reported the injury Thursday.

"We were just going through drills and I kind of threw my foot down to plant and it kind of popped," Wagenmann told ESPN.com. "We were doing some simple linebacker stuff and I was doing a drop and plant and redirect drill, and I just planted on it weird and rolled the outside of my foot.

"And that was it."

Wagenmann, a Missoula Sentinel grad, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 30 -- exactly three weeks after Wagenmann's injury -- with its later rounds extending through May 2. According to most draft predictions, Wagenmann was expected to be chosen that Saturday when picks from the fourth through seventh rounds are chosen.

Wagenmann, the Griz single-season and career leader in sacks with 17.5 and 37.5, respectively, was the No. 20-ranked DE prospect for this draft class as rated by CBS's NFLDraftScout.com. The website projected him as a sixth rounder.


The news was better than expected following Wagenmann's surgery, LaMontagne said, because the break was clean with no internal damage. The bones were already beginning to heal properly, he said.

"After we got all of the information and we could digest it, we realized, all right, we didn't dodge a bullet but it was a really small bullet," said LaMontagne, who also serves as agent to Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, another former Grizzly.

Many of Wagenmann's NFL pursuers have remained in contact the past two weeks, looking for updates on the future pro's health. It's hard to tell what effect the break will have on Wagenmann's draft prospects, his agent added.

"I think it'll boil down to just the mentality of the team," LaMontagne said, citing differences between veteran and younger coaching staffs. "If he's gonna be ready for training camp, he's gonna earn his job at training camp. ... The padded work and the preseason games is where guys make that 53-man roster."

The 60-day healing period, the most conservative estimate by Wagenmann's doctors, would put him fully back the first week of June. All but six of the 32 NFL franchises open their mandatory minicamp slates June 16, with the others beginning a week prior.

Organized activities for all teams dot the calendar starting in late May and early June as well.

"It becomes a chess match," LaMontagne began, referring to teams deciding how long to wait on Wagenmann in the draft. "Now you have to wonder is this (other) team going to discount him or this team going to leave him exactly where he is?

"Prior to us finding out the true nature of the injury, it was an easier gamble for teams to take (by letting Wagenmann drop)."

Wagenmann is bound to a walking boot for support on the foot for now, though he will be allowed to begin weight-bearing exercises possibly as early as the end of the month.

Until then, the star DE is continuing to work on his upper-body strength lifting weights and his conditioning using stationary bikes.

"With guys during this (draft) process, there's so much pressure and so much preparation ... that during this time frame, we usually just tell guys, 'Listen, this is the last time you'll have to just relax,' " LaMontagne said. "Zack literally has to spend the next couple of weeks with his feet up."

The first round of the NFL Draft will air live from Chicago beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, on ESPN. The network will carry the action the following days as well with Rounds 2 for 3 airing at 5 p.m. that Friday and the rest beginning at 10 a.m. that Saturday.

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