NFL scouts visit Winona State

Mitchell Breuer, Sports Editor

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Winona State University’s football season may have just begun, but they have already had a couple of visitors around.

Several NFL scouts have made their way to Winona to take a look at what the team has to offer.

“We’ve had probably nine teams in so far,” head coach Tom Sawyer said. “The biggest attraction right now for them is Nick Pridgeon. He was on the radar two years ago when he was a junior, and they came to see him play last year as well. He’s the number one prospect as a senior this year. We have a couple others. Paul Ortiz, a kicker that we have right now is another prospect and then we have some junior prospects as well. But right now the most attraction is, they like the size, speed and the way that Nick Pridgeon plays.”

Pridegon, a sixth-year linebacker, has proven to be quite the asset for the Warriors throughout his years of eligibility, coming with five interceptions, three sacks and 121 total tackles, which includes nine this season.

Ortiz, a senior kicker, has also been impressive, going 17 for 25 on field goals, with his longest coming from 50 yards out.

Now, the NFL is no stranger to Winona State; it was not long ago when alumni Zach Olstad and Andrew Spencer earned NFL tryouts, with Olstad getting signed by the Buffalo Bills.

Visits from teams are far from rare for the Warriors, Sawyer says, as they visit many Minnesota schools every year.

“Yeah, we see them just about every year. We’re located in a good place, we’ve had some pretty good athletes,” Sawyer said. “We’ve had a lot of kids that have gone into pro camps, but these scouts that come in right now are they’re called Advanced College Scouts and what they do is they’ll go from University of Minnesota, they’ll hit Mankato, Winona State, St. Cloud, maybe St. Thomas has a kid that year and then they work their way down to Madison. They work their way into like Whitewater possibly, and then they go to Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and those schools. We’re kind of in a good spot where they’re always transitioning through, and it makes a pretty easy stop for here in one of them.”

Sawyer also says that the players are made aware of the scouts, with the university setting up meetings with interested teams before they are allowed to see them practice.

“Then Coach Curtin, one of my assistant coaches, is our pro liaison, so he will set the scout up either in his office or in a classroom at the stadium so they can watch film, practice games, those kinds of things,” Sawyer said. “Then we also have individual meetings with our athletic trainers and also our position coaches and myself to do a full evaluation on each player.”

However, just because this a regular thing, does not mean that the visits do not provide a little extra motivation for the team.

The NFL scouts could potentially offer them a life changing opportunity at fame and success.

“Most of our kids have the dream of playing in the NFL someday, and so when a pro scouts walking around, they walk a little faster or run a little faster,” Sawyer said. “Practice seems to be a little sharper each and every time that there’s a pro scout here. Since school started, all those have been here. So almost every day we’ve had a scout in. So, it becomes pretty routine. But yeah, it definitely is exciting for all of our players.”

With all this said, it will be interesting to see if another Warrior will get the chance to play, with the professionals next year at this time.