At the conclusion of his senior football season back in the fall of 2011, Montana offensive lineman Jon Opperud had options in the NFL. And after spending time with both the Seahawks and the New England Patriots, he eventually had to put those dreams aside for the time being and undergo shoulder surgery.
"It's just been a journey since then," said Opperud. "Rehabbing, and I helped out with the Griz football team last year with Coach Gragg and I think it was a good opportunity for me."
Now one year later Opperud has once again been given an opportunity to play at the NFL. He will be traveling to mini camp this week for the Houston Texans.
"I definitely know what to expect now and what's required. I think that will play a much bigger role in hopefully my success."
Of course Opperud won't be the only Grizzly this week trying to prove himself at mini camp. Kalispell native Josh Harris just finished his senior year with the team, and he will be traveling this week to the mini camp of the San Francisco 49ers.
"It felt great to finally have someone interested in me and give me a shot to come down there and show them what I can do," said Harris of San Francisco's invite.
Both Harris and Opperud faced their share of injury issues over the past few years, but they both say that right now that won't be holding them back.
"The shoulder is 100% or 99.9% you know, so yeah I'm feeling great," said Opperud.
"I think right now I feel as good as I have in the last three or four years," agreed Harris. "I think that will benefit me just being healthy for once."
Of course these guys know that being invites to mini camp is a long step away from making an NFL roster, but you can be confident that both of these athletes will lay it all on the line this week to try and earn themselves that opportunity.
"You know they have two practices Friday, two Saturday and one on Sunday so I have five opportunities to prove myself," said Opperud.
"Growing up in a football family that has always been my dream to get a shot at the NFL and get to go down there and see what happens," said Harris.
Joining Opperud and Harris are three other Grizzlies that are trying to prove themselves this week. Greg hardy with the Redskins, Dan Moore with the Colts, and Gerald Kemp with the Seahawks. All five of these guys are hoping to join the ranks of many former Grizzlies that are already making a name for themselves within the NFL.
"Those are the guys that have paved the way for this program," said Opperud. "And I want to be one of those guys that helps put Montana on the map and continues the success and exposure of this program over here in Missoula."