Stressful is putting lightly how former MSU Bobcat and current Chicago Bear Zach Minter felt last Saturday as he awaited word on his status with his new NFL team. His former defensive line coach at MSU, Bo Beck, was on the phone with him throughout the final week of roster cuts, hoping he would be given a shot.
"They gave him the opinion that he was going to know by Friday," said Beck. "He did not know up until Saturday at about three o'clock our time, so we talked probably half a dozen times between then."
However the stress was lifted as Minter got the call Saturday from the Bears letting him know that he had made the team.
"It was a big emotional sigh when he finally knew," said Beck. "It was fun to talk to him and he's screaming and the guys are texting back and forth. It's just great for the kid and great for the program."
I spoke to Zach on Friday over the phone as he prepares for his first game. He said it was everything he's dreamed of.
"It means the world to me man," he said. "I'm so blessed. I put in a lot of hard work. I definitely did a lot throughout the off-season. To make the fifty-three man roster is really a testament to hard work."
A few days prior to finding out his roster status, Minter was in his final NFL preseason game. It was the same night as the Bobcats Gold Rush game. Minter called Beck following the game and rather than talking about his NFL game, he wanted to know about the Bobcats and Craig Ashworth's pick-six.
"We played Thursday, he played Thursday and he called me and I was excited because I was gonna go watch his game that I had recorded," said Beck. "Right away he goes, 'tell me about Craig.' He wanted to make sure that everybody knew that he (Zach) didn't need a back blocker when he rolled down the field," Beck said with a smile.
Minter, who had a pick-six of his own at MSU, had a different version of that conversation.
"Okay, for the record I never said I didn't need a lead blocker," Minter said as he laughed. "He kind of implied that, but I never said that. But that's just how the defensive line is. We like to joke around with one another."
I asked him what the biggest change from the college level to pro level was. He told me that cutting out mistakes was crucial.
"The margin of error is really small. You want to eliminate as many errors as you can. They expect you to catch on quick. They expect you to practice and play like a pro. The speed is a lot faster, but what it takes to practice and be a professional was the biggest transition."
Minter went undrafted, signing with the Chicago Bears following the draft. I asked him if he was bothered by not getting drafted. He said he just wanted a chance to prove himself.
"I think a lot of guys get caught up in getting drafted," he said. "I just wanted a shot because I believed I could play in this league. When I didn't get drafted it wasn't a big deal. I was excited to sign as a free agent. I just knew, drafted or not, once I got to Chicago it was time to get to work."
Minter certainly got to work having an outstanding preseason and cementing his place as the number two defensive tackle on the Bears depth chart. Despite all of this big time NFL news, one thing Zach certainly hasn't forgotten are his roots at MSU. He says he hopes to come back to Bozeman this year.
"I'm gonna try to get back to Bozeman on my bye week to watch a game," he said. "It's gonna be weird watching. I miss Bozeman, I miss the team. I miss my teammates and coaches. I'm gonna try to follow them as much as I can."
A person he is sure to visit on his trip will be Coach Beck. As we spoke over the phone you could hear the admiration and respect in Minter's voice whenever he talked about his former coach.
"Coach Beck really helped me grow as a football player. I was still new to the game when I got to Montana State. I was only two years into football, so I'm really fortunate to have a coach like Coach Beck who taught me the ropes and really hone in on what I was good at."
Bozeman certainly will be tuning in on Sunday to see a former Bobcat lacing up for the Chicago Bears as they host the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm so excited to see what it's like to run out with a fully loaded Soldier Field," Minter said. "I'm excited! My family is going to be there. My mom is flying out. I'm kind of nervous but that just comes with the job description."
The Bears will host the Bengals Sunday at 1 p.m. Best of luck to Zach in his first NFL season, you know everyone in Bozeman will be rooting for you.