Zach Sieler watched the NFL Draft from his parents’ home in small-town Pinckney, Mich., about an hour west of Detroit. As is the case with many prospects, he had his family and friends, including some of his college teammates, there to watch with him.
Round after round, pick after pick, Sieler waited. They kept waiting, staying confident that some team would call and his name would be read in Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.
Then, with 19 picks left in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s voice was on the other end of the phone.
“I’ll make you proud,” Sieler told Newsome.
Sieler didn’t know it was Newsome’s last draft until the Ravens general manager told him so. The fact that he was Newsome’s last pick didn’t set in until later, after the screaming and crying in his family’s house subsided.
“It’s incredible,” Sieler said. “To me, it means a lot to come here, give it my all, make Ozzie proud, make my coaches back home proud, my family, everyone that’s been with me all these years. It makes me even more passionate – if that’s possible.”
Sieler already brings a lot of determination to the NFL after being overlooked throughout his football career.
Coming from a small town, Sieler didn’t have many recruiters banging on the door. He was also undersized. Sieler stands in at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds now. He left high school at 220 pounds.
Seiler had some interest from Western Michigan, but when that fell through, his best option was to walk on at Division II Ferris State. He chose it in part because his family had a cabin nearby when he was growing up.
“Their coaches told me, ‘We don’t think you’d be able to play here, but we’d love to have you as a walk-on guy,’” Sieler said. “’You’d be a good scout team guy with your height and size.’”
In college, Sieler’s long, thin frame finally filled out and his passion and work ethic turned him into a monster on the field. In 2016, he logged a staggering 19.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. He tied the school record with 33 career sacks.
Sieler had done it all in college, and thus made the very unusual decision of declaring early for the draft as a Division II prospect. That led to him flying under the NFL’s radar, but not the Ravens’.
After Sieler ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, put up 31 bench press reps and leapt 30 inches at his pro day, eyes were opened. The Ravens were one of the teams Sieler visited before the draft.
“He tested extremely well,” Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He plays hard. He drew a lot of attention at Ferris State. There were a lot of games where he would be triple-teamed and double-teamed. We’re excited to get him.”
Now Sieler will compete for a spot on the 53-man roster and playing time on special teams and defense. The Ravens envision him eventually pressuring quarterbacks from the edge as a defensive end, or up the middle as a sub-package defensive tackle.
But Sieler obviously has a lot to prove and learn first. He’s the first player ever drafted from Ferris State and now joins a team with a lot of talent and depth on the defensive line.
“Coming from Division II, obviously the talent isn’t as good there,” Sieler said. “But the relentlessness, hustle and work ethic, I just have to make sure I carry that over and take my game to the next level.”
Get a feel for the personalities of the Ravens' 2018 draft selections through the lens of Team Photographer Shawn Hubbard.