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Gentry happy to go to Steelers, “team that wanted me”

Michigan tight end and Eldorado alumnus Zach Gentry, shown during the NFL scouting combine, went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Saturday’s fifth round. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

On the final day of the NFL Draft, former Eldorado standout Zach Gentry proved to be unassuming.

He sat at home in Albuquerque watching the draft coverage on TV with his dad, Tom, mom, Kris, and brother, Sam.

“I kept it low key,” Gentry said on Saturday. “I’m not a big party guy.”

That’s just some of what the Pittsburgh Steelers will be getting after they made Gentry, a 6-foot-8, 265-pound tight end, their fifth-round pick, No. 141 overall.

The other part of what the Steelers will be getting is what most know: a raw and athletic tight end who had converted from quarterback early on at Michigan.

“He’s a good football player,” Pittsburgh tight ends coach James Daniel said to the media. “Long frame. He’s a guy that we’re excited about getting in here and getting to work with.”

Gentry said he is excited, too. He also said he felt good about leaving Michigan a year early.

“This is kind of where I thought I would be picked for the last few months, fourth or fifth round,” Gentry said. “I’m happy about it. I got to a team that wanted me. It feels good to get this process over with and know where I stand and move on.

“As far back as I can remember, the only thing I wanted to do was play in the NFL. Knowing now that I will play for a team, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

Growing up in Albuquerque, Gentry said he really didn’t have an NFL team that he followed. He had always been a big Brett Favre fan and wanted to be a quarterback. He first committed to Texas, but later became Jim Harbaugh’s first quarterback recruit for the Wolverines in 2015.

It wasn’t too long after that Gentry was converted to a tight end.

In 2017, he caught 17 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, he had a career-best 32 receptions for 514 yards and two touchdowns.

Gentry said he had good feeling about the Steelers throughout the past few months but wasn’t totally sure they would pick him.

Daniel said he saw Gentry at the NFL rookie combine and had dinner with him before the Michigan pro day.

Daniel brought up former Steelers tight end Heath Miller during his press conference on Saturday as a reminder that Miller also went to college, Virginia, as a quarterback, was converted to tight end, and that it helped him become better at that position.

“He’s a quarterback, so I’d say he’s more adept at the receiving end of it,” Daniel said of Gentry. “He has some adjusting to do to become a good blocker. But the kid is excited about it and willing.”

HANKS: After the draft, former New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks signed with his hometown Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

Hanks, a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder, recorded 396 total tackles during his four-year career to finish fourth all-time in the Aggie record books. He had 41 career starts with 100-plus tackles in three of his four seasons with NMSU.

HART-JOHNSON: After the draft, Delane Hart-Johnson, the University of New Mexico’s top receiver last season, announced on Twitter that he will have a rookie-camp tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.

Hart-Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 219-pound wide receiver, led the Lobos with 35 catches for 507 yards and five touchdowns last season.

BURRELL: Former UNM defensive back Jalin Burrell signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, his agent Christina Phillips said Saturday night.
Burrell finished with one interception, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and 52 tackles as a cornerback for the Lobos last season.
He transferred in from Moorpark Junior College in 2017. At Moorpark, he converted from a wide receiver to a cornerback.

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