The 2015 NFL season officially gets underway this week, with each team having trimmed down its roster to the 53-player limit. After the dust settled on the last round of cuts, the Montana Grizzlies have become the best represented FCS team in the league according to STATS.com.
Out of 133 total FCS players on Week 1 NFL rosters, Montana leads the way with eight listed on a team’s active roster. Two more former Griz are also listed on practice squads, and still two more either injured or knocking on the door.
“It says a lot for the environment that is created on Saturdays here that these kids are playing not only high-level football, but they are also playing in front of big crowds in a hostile environment,” said Montana coach Bob Stitt.
“That prepares them to go into a situation in a preseason game in the NFL and it’s not any different than what they played in on Saturday at Montana, so I think the whole environment created here helps our guys be able to handle the pressure of making a roster.”
The list of former Griz players plying their trade in the NFL is a who’s-who of former Montana greats.
Unique to this list, however, is the number of players who grew up playing high school football in Montana, with six of the current eight pros being products of the Last Best Place.
“Those NFL guys love Montana players because they have that blue-collar aspect to them, and they’re very talented,” says Stitt.
Current Griz on NFL Rosters:
Colt Anderson (Butte) – Indianapolis
Kroy Biermann (Hardin) – Atlanta
Dan Carpenter (Helena) – Buffalo
Brock Coyle (Bozeman) – Seattle
Trumaine Johnson – St. Louis
Marc Mariani (Havre) – Chicago
Chase Reynolds (Drummond) – St. Louis
Jimmy Wilson – San Diego
Not included on this list, but still in the NFL mix are four more former Grizzlies, two of which are Montana natives. Lineman Danny Kistler (Oakland) and Will Poehls (Tennessee) have signed with their respective practice squads. Jordan Tripp (Missoula) was recently waived by the Miami Dolphins, but recently worked out with the Minnesota Vikings according to ESPN.com. Zack Wagenmann (Missoula) remains on the Arizona Cardinals’ Injured Reserve list.
Following behind Montana as the best-represented FCS programs in the NFL are Delaware (seven), Coastal Carolina (five) and North Dakota State (five), who are the only other schools to have more than four players on an active roster.
Parity between the FCS and FBS is usually in conversation at the beginning of the college football season. But after a wild opening week that saw Portland State upset Washington State, North Dakota knocked off Wyoming, and South Dakota State took down Kansas, many believe the performance gap is closing, leading to better professional representation.
“If you took these FCS programs and gave them a few more scholarships, that’s the only difference. The players, there’s not that much difference in the talent level,” added coach Stitt. “There’s a lot of talent, and these recruits out around the country need to know that they don’t have to go to a FBS school to end up in the NFL.”
The Montana Grizzlies have a bye this week before heading to Lynchburg, Va. to take on the Liberty Flames. Liberty will have its own shot at an FBS school this week as the Flames travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia.
— Montana Sports Information