Zack Wagenmann

Montana defensive lineman Zack Wagenmann runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis Sunday.

Former Montana Grizzly defensive end Zack Wagenmann did not see his name flash across the screen on ESPN, but that didn't mean his phone was silent Saturday.

Wagenmann agreed to a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals less than a half hour after the conclusion of the NFL draft, his agent Noel LaMontagne confirmed to the Missoulian.

The Cardinals were one of "a handful" of teams talking with Wagenmann throughout the day Saturday, offering a three-year deal at the rookie minimum salary, LaMontagne said, plus a signing bonus.

The league minimum in 2015 is $435,000 for a first-year player.

Wagenmann, a Sentinel High graduate from nearby Lolo, was trying to become the second straight Missoula product chosen in the draft. Griz linebacker and Big Sky High grad Jordan Tripp was picked by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round in 2014.

Wagenmann and UM teammates wide receiver/running back Travon Van and defensive tackle Tonga Takai were all listed among potential draftees, though the latter two were more likely to sign as free agents.

One of Arizona's major needs heading into the offseason was in its pass rush, especially off the edge. The Cardinals picked up two defensive ends during the draft -- Missouri's Markus Golden in the second round Friday and West Virginia's Shaquille Riddick in the fifth Saturday -- before adding Wagenmann moments after the final pick.

"I feel so lucky, so blessed just to have the opportunity to continue doing the thing I love," Wagenmann said about the deal. "Just super excited to have a new home and a new team."

Wagenmann said he talked with Arizona's defensive coordinator James Bettcher and linebackers coach Bob Sanders early in the seventh round. The remaining Cards' draft pick was spoken for, but they wanted Wagenmann as a free agent.

"It's pretty wild and your heart starts beating a little bit faster," Wagenmann said of seeing the out-of-state area code pop up on his phone during incoming calls.

Arizona closed out the draft with pick No. 256, the so-called Mr. Irrelevant, by choosing Louisville tight end Gerald Christian.

Eastern Washington offensive lineman Jake Rodgers was the only Big Sky Conference player selected this year, going to the Atlanta Falcons early in the seventh round.


As a senior, Wagenmann finished third in Buck Buchannan Award voting for the best defender in the Football Championship Subdivision. The 6-foot-3 1/2, 247-pounder tallied 17.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles while earning the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year honor.

Wagenmann's 37.5 career sacks are tops in Montana history and he landed on four All-America teams following his senior season.

Arizona felt like the best opportunity of the teams that contacted Wagenmann late Saturday, the Grizzly standout said. The Cards run a 3-4 defensive front with three down linemen and four roaming linebackers. Wagenamnn, as a DE on the lighter side who thrives on his speed, would best equate to one of those outside linebackers.

Arizona drafted no linebackers this year.

"I just feel like schematically I can fit into their defense and have a chance to earn a spot on the roster," he began, "and hopefully be playing some special teams down there too."

"I'm not 100 percent sure (where they'll want me) and I'll find out more when I get down there, but it sounds like they want me up on two feet," Wagenmann added.

Up on two feet isn't a phrase that best describes Wagenmann right now. He broke his right one during a pre-draft private workout three weeks ago with an unknown NFL team (The Cardinals? "Mighta been," Wagenmann said, coyly), something that may have helped his draft stock drop.

After the Grizzly's performance at the NFL Combine in February and Montana's pro day in early March, Wagenmann was projected between the fifth and seventh rounds by CBS's NFLDraftScout.com.

"A lot of teams thinking, 'We can push it, we can push it, we can push it' and try and get him in free agency," said LaMontagne, adding a healthy Wagenmann would be a steal as an undrafted free agent. "... It's almost like you find a $20 bill in your pocket after you do the laundry and you didn't even know it was in there."

Wagenmann was rated the 20th best defensive end option in the draft. Twenty-two DE's were drafted, including three in the seventh round.


Former Montana State linebacker Alex Singleton also signed after the draft, inking with the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday afternoon.

Seventeen FCS players were picked over the draft's three-day run, Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt going the highest at No. 46 overall in the second round Friday.

North Dakota State, the four-time defending FCS national champ and UM's first opponent this fall, had linebacker Kyle Emanuel drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round. Emanuel won the Buck Buchanan Award last year.

Bison running back John Crockett signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers.

Also signing after the draft was Boise State WR Matt Miller, a Helena native, who will join the Denver Broncos.

Draft picks and free agent signees must now survive training camp cuts this summer before NFL teams trim their rosters to 53 players for the regular season.

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