Gopher Hoops Player, Puchtel, Invited to Bears Camp
BEARS GIVE FORMER GOPHER A CHANCE TO SWITCH SPORTS
Michael Rand, Star Tribune
To borrow a word from a sport that Zach Puchtel actually isn't involved with these days, life seems to be throwing him a lot of curveballs. He left Harvard to try Division I basketball and ended up starting for the Gophers. Not long after that ended, and with Puchtel enrolled in fall classes back at Harvard, his agent got a call from the Chicago Bears. The question: Would the 6-6, 250-pound Puchtel consider trying out as a tight end?
"It's a shock. I never expected it," Puchtel said. "But sometimes life throws you things, and you have to look into them. I thought it was something I should try."
So Puchtel -- an all-Metro football player at Hopkins in 2000 who turned down scholarships to Nebraska and Wisconsin but last played the sport as a Harvard freshman -- attended the Bears' three-day minicamp Friday through Sunday. He learned blocking techniques, caught every pass thrown to him and generally tried to bring himself up to speed after four years out of the game. There were several eye-opening moments, including the level of professionalism exuded at the camp, Puchtel said Monday. But he also had fun and said he feels he performed well.
"I really didn't know what to expect, so I just told myself, 'Do the best you can, you have nothing to lose,' " he said. "I do feel I did everything I could this weekend. It's up to them at this point."
The notion of Puchtel sticking with the Bears or another team is still a long shot, but it's hardly unheard of. San Diego's Antonio Gates, perhaps the NFL's top tight end, was an undrafted free agent who never played college football. Two others who played hoops, not football in college -- Kai Lewis from George Mason and Ed Nelson from UConn -- recently signed free agent deals with the Giants and Rams, respectively.
The balance, hands and physical nature required in the low post translate well onto the football field, and Puchtel said he thinks he could have a future in the NFL.
"Absolutely, just because I know what kind of person I am," he said. "I know I'm not at the physical level I need to be at right now, but I don't doubt myself."
"Veni, Vidi, Vikings!"--Julius Caesar