NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former Fighting Irish tight end Tyler Eifert and former Stanford tight end Zach Ertz have been somewhat pitted against each other since the end of the college football season as to who is going to be the first one taken in next month’s NFL Draft. Speaking today at Notre Dame’s pro day, Eifert downplayed the hype and has even become friends with Ertz since meeting him in Indianapolis last month at the NFL Combine. Still, even with the apathy shown toward their race to be chosen first, Eifert wants to hear his name called before his new buddy’s.
“No, I want to be the first tight end taken,” Eifert said quickly about whether or not it matters to him when he’s drafted. “I still think it’s silly that Zach (Ertz) and I have become kind of a rivalry. I saw him at the combine - he’s a cool dude and we hung out the whole time. I’m doing everything I can though to be the first tight end taken and that’s what I hope to be.”
With solid times at the combine and superb drill work, it’s clear to many that the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder will get what he hopes for that magical night in New York City. Aside from what he’s done for the scouts, his ability to play anywhere on the field is what NFL teams are craving.
“I think teams like my versatility,” Eifert explained. “I explained to them that I knew our entire offense and you could put me in any position on the field and I would have known what to do. That gives offenses a little bit of flexibility to move me around and create some mismatches that a defense of coordinator would have to be worried about.”
Many wondered with his fate cemented as a first-round draft choice why the All-American would even bother showing up on a day like today.
“My agent and people that are giving me advice told me to participate today,” Eifert stated. “I was running routes - I never really thought that I wouldn’t run routes – that’s something that I work on and do a lot. I had no problem going out there and running around a little bit.”
Part of the calmness he showed in today’s workout was because he didn’t have to be timed in the 40-yard dash or any of the shuttle runs. He chose to let the times he recorded at the combine speak for themselves.
“It was a relief,” Eifert said about not having to run for time today. “At the combine I don’t know how I looked on the outside, but I was nervous - it’s a stressful period. You got a lot on the line there, so I was happy to have that over and be able to focus on just ball-specific drills as I was getting ready for pro day.”
How did he feel he performed in those ball-specific drills? For Eifert it’s like riding a bike, only on a different road than he’s used to traveling.
“I felt good in the positional drills,” Eifert explained. “Those are the things that I feel most comfortable doing on the field - things I’ve been doing since I was little. I thought I did well - ran good routes, caught the football, and showed good explosion getting up the field.”
“The depth of the routes may have been a little bit different than college,” he continued. “But those are things that I’ve been working on - they’ve prepped us on the NFL routes and how they might be different.”
Running routes against air, as well as running sprints with shorts and a t-shirt on, seem like a far cry from what the Ft. Wayne, Ind. native has done on the field during the past few seasons for the Irish. The fact that so much is put on these types of workouts isn’t lost on him, although he does realize the real evaluation comes from the eye in the sky.
“It seems that it gets hyped up that way with the combine and everything else,” Eifert said about performing for scouts before the draft. “At the end of the day though, it’s your game film that really matters. People who have been doing this for a while remind me of that, so it takes some of the pressure off of me. It’s not necessarily make or break if you don’t do well at the combine or your pro-day, as long as your tape is good.”
His tape is good and, in addition to his performance for the scouts, has made him a hot commodity moving forward. But even for someone with his talent there are always aspects of his game to try and improve upon.
“For me it’s pretty much what everyone else has always said - my strength and my blocking,” Eifert stated about what part of his game he’s tried to grow the most. “Obviously I try to continue to develop everything - catching the ball - I’ve dropped passes before, so I’m always working on my hands. The one thing though is my blocking - getting stronger and putting on a little more weight, so I can get better at that.”
On the field he’s taking steps to learn the nuances of the NFL game, but he’s turned to a former Notre Dame standout for advice on to handle what’s headed in his direction off the field as well.
“I’ve talked to Kyle Rudolph a lot about the process,” Eifert explained. “We don’t talk a lot about football specific things, but more about the transition to the NFL and what that’s like. He says he’s lucky in Minnesota because it’s a young locker room, but some places you get some older guys with a wife and kids who’s going home to his family while you’re going back to your apartment by yourself. That’s just something you have to be ready for during the transition process.”
Rudolph isn’t the only ex-domer Eifert has had helping him out in his quest for the NFL, as just today a former quarterback was brought in to throw to him and the other skilled players who were working out.
“John Goodman got hooked up with Evan (Sharpley) to throw to him,” Eifert said about how Sharpley became his quarterback for today. “My agent was looking around for a quarterback to throw to me - I know Brady Quinn was in the equation - but me and Sharp were on scout team together freshman year, so we had a little connection from that. Once I found out he was throwing I was good because he throws a good ball and I like catching passes from him.”
It remains to be seen who he’ll be catching passes from on Sundays, but the soon-to-be rookie is just happy to be playing the position he plays during such an exciting time in NFL history.
“I’m thankful for the guys that have played tight end before me like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Rudolph,” Eifert stated. “They really set the stage because it’s a good time to be a tight end, especially the type of tight end I am. I feel lucky to be coming into the NFL when I am.”
Eifert plans to stay at Notre Dame where he’ll continue to work out until he’s drafted. He will also be at home for the draft and will not be traveling to New York.