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Big Rapids, Mich. - Standout All-America defensive end Zach Sieler (Pinckney) became Ferris State University's first-ever National Football League (NFL) Draft choice on Saturday (April 28) as he was picked by the Baltimore Ravens.
Sieler was picked by the Ravens in the seventh round of this year's draft and was the 238th overall selection. He joins four other former Bulldog teammates currently with NFL organizations.
The standout end graduated from FSU in December with a degree in mechanical engineering technology and elected to forgo his final collegiate season to enter this year's draft after leading FSU to back-to-back NCAA Division II National Quarterfinal appearances the past two years.
Sieler was a consensus All-America choice each of the past two seasons and twice received the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Defensive Lineman of the Year honor along with being chosen in both 2016 and 2017 as the Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) Super Region Defensive Player of the Year. He began his FSU career as a walk-on before becoming one of the nation's top defensive linemen over the last two seasons.
This past fall, Sieler led the Bulldogs with 21 tackles for loss (-74 yards) and seven quarterback sacks (-46 yards) despite consistently drawing multiple blockers while ranking third in total tackles (79) in addition to forcing two fumbles, recovering two fumbles, breaking up two passes and blocking a kick. Along with being a consensus first team All-American, he was also chosen as a national finalist for the Cliff Harris National Small College Defensive Player of the Year honor for the second consecutive season. Sieler was also a three-time GLIAC All-Academic Team honoree.
As a sophomore in 2016, Sieler set new school records with 29.5 tackles for loss (-164 yards) and 19.5 sacks (-138 yards) while helping FSU to the school's second-ever NCAA Division II National Semifinal appearance. He ranked among the nation's top five players in both categories and led the GLIAC while also ranking as FSU's third-leading tackler with a personal career-high 80 stops, including 37 solo hits. Sieler added a team-high five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a blocked kick and a pass breakup while starting all 15 games in 2016.
In 2016, Sieler was tabbed as the Football Gazette National Defensive Player of the Year in addition to earning his first of two mentions as the region's top defensive player. In each of his final two seasons, he garnered consensus All-America recognition from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), D2Football.com, Football Gazette, Associated Press and the Division II Conference Commissioners Association among other sources.
The three-year letterwinner, who initially redshirted as a freshman in 2013 before sitting out in 2014 and then playing in 11 games as a reserve in 2015, closed his FSU career with 176 total tackles in 39 games with 33 sacks for minus 219 yards along with 58 tackles for loss resulting in 274 lost yards. He matched former Bulldog standout Jim Lenz (1990-93) as the school's all-time sack leader and broke former standout Ed Philion's school career record with his 58 tackles for loss. His younger brother, Adam, is currently an offensive lineman in the Bulldog program and redshirted this past fall.
This past year, Sieler's play and leadership helped FSU finish the 2017 season with an 11-2 overall record. FSU's 11 wins marked the fourth consecutive year in which the Bulldogs had achieved the feat, which represents the first time in school history in which FSU has done so over four-straight years. Over the last four plus seasons at FSU during Sieler's career, the Bulldogs recorded a 45-7 overall record and also won a pair of conference championships.
In 2017, the Bulldogs also made their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs and reached the national quarterfinal round for the second-straight year after making a D2 National Semifinal appearance and winning a regional crown in 2016. Ferris State ranks as the winningest team in Michigan and the GLIAC over the past six years under head coach Tony Annese's direction.
The Bulldogs currently have four other former standouts active in NFL organizations, including defensive tackle Justin Zimmer who was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent last week. Former two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winning quarterback Jason Vander Laan is a tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, linebacker Brady Sheldon is with the Oakland Raiders and wide receiver Jake Lampman is in the Tampa Bay Buccanneers' organization. Vander Laan, Sheldon and Lampman have all seen NFL regular-season action over the past two seasons. Last year, Sheldon earned a tryout invitation with the Raiders and eventually was moved to the active roster.
While no Ferris State football player had ever been drafted by an NFL team before Sieler, according to the official NFL Draft Report, several former Bulldogs have inked NFL contracts as free agents and played in the league. Including last year, the Bulldogs have had at least one NFL free agent pickup following the draft each of the past four years.
Unofficially, at least 15 former Ferris State players have previously inked NFL free agent deals. Former defensive back Marvin Robinson inked with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 with defensive tackle Marcus Cribbs signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. Those two represented the first since free agent cornerback Angelo Williams with the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. Previously, in 2013, former defensive end Jordan Morgan received a rookie tryout with the New York Giants, but did not sign. In 2016, Vander Laan, Lampman and Zimmer all signed and reached NFL camps while Sheldon did likewise in 2017.
The select group also consists of running back Dave Gagnon (1974-Chicago Bears), outside linebacker Monty Brown (1997-New York Jets), defensive tackle Ed Philion (1994-Buffalo Bills), defensive end Dave Zuiderveen (2001-Atlanta Falcons), flanker Clarence Coleman (2002-Buffalo Bills), tackle Matt McCoy (2004-Detroit Lions), wide receiver Carlton Brewster (2006-Cleveland Browns) and defensive tackle Jake Visser (2009-Houston Texans).
Two other former Ferris State players, offensive guard Bill Bourdlais and safety Patrick Wells, received tryout invitations from the Cleveland Browns in 2008 and participated in the team's rookie minicamp, but did not ink a deal. Several others have also had NFL tryouts including wide receiver Andre Johnson (1989), quarterback Dave DenBraber (1987) and receiver/returner Fred Kirkland (1981). Defensive back James Skodak (2006) also had tryouts with several NFL organizations among other past Bulldog standouts.