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Former Griz players hope for NFL calls

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The 2016 NFL Draft is underway in Chicago, which has some of the most elite Montana Grizzlies spending this weekend close to the phone. 

“It’s a cool time,” says draft hopeful Tyrone Holmes. “I’m getting texts and calls from so many different people. It’s really cool to be in this position. I feel extremely blessed, and I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy the moment. I didn’t realize how many people I actually knew until these last couple of days. It’s been great.”

23 former Griz players have been taken in the NFL Draft. 51 more have signed NFL free agent contracts afterward. Current Los Angeles Ram cornerback Trumaine Johnson is the highest UM player ever drafted, going third round to the Rams.

Holmes enters the draft as one of Montana’s all-time greats, having earned the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year award following an incredible season when he totaled a national-best 18 sacks.

The 6-4, 250-pound Montana graduate from Eagle Point, Ore., finished his four-year career at with 34.5 sacks, second on the Grizzlies' all-time career list.  He also sits second on UM's all-time career tackles-for-loss list with 49.5 during his illustrious career.

The four-time all-American has been predicted by draft pundits to be selected as high as the fourth round and has been pegged as either a defensive end prospect or a potential convert to linebacker, taking advantage of his quickness and sure tackling.

But like those 51 other Grizzlies who weren’t selected during the draft, the Griz have more NFL hopefuls waiting in the wings.

UM’s all-time leading receiver Jamaal Jones is hoping to have his named called this weekend, but a hamstring pull during pro day could hamper his draft stock.

Fellow receiver Ben Roberts received plenty of attention from scouts during his first and only season at Montana, with his imposing physical presence and sure hands. But after playing four years of baseball at Washington State, one year of football experience may not be enough for a team to take him in the draft, but may be enough to sign him as a free agent.

Ellis Henderson finished his career at UM as the team’s seventh all-time leader in pass reception touchdowns with 23. He’s proven his ability to catch balls, but his size may hamper him in the draft.

Linebacker Jeremiah Kose impressed at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January and could be a late-round choice if not a free agent.

Montana’s No. 17 all-time leading tackler Kendrick Van Ackeren is another UM defender who received attention on pro day, as did fellow linebacker Herbert Gamboa, who impressed scouts with a 4.5 40 at pro day and a 38.5-inch vertical.

Also on the radar is kicker Chris Lider, who averaged 40 yards per punt last season and impressed during UM’s pro day with his strong leg.

Round 1 of the NFL Draft started at 6 p.m. on Thursday with former NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz being taken second overall.

Rounds 2-3 start at 5 p.m. on Friday, while rounds 4-7 (where Holmes is expected to be drafted) start at 10 a.m. on Saturday on ESPN, WatchESPN and the NFL Network.

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