ODU football players presented themselves to 35 NFL scouts and coaches at the Pro Day

NORFOLK, Va.— The passport of Kevin Decker was high but not unattainable Zack Kuntza 6-foot-7 tight end who jumped, grabbed the ball while rotating his body, and landed in the end zone at SB Ballard Stadium.

It’s the kind of catch that has NFL scouts drooling over Kuntz and his potential to be an everyday player. Decker, ODU’s offensive coordinator and a standout quarterback in New Hampshire, pumped his fist when Kuntz came down with the ball.

The 35 NFL scouts and assistant coaches attending ODU’s Pro Day dutifully took notes and whispered to one another. Kuntz’s former ODU teammates cheered and roared.

They’ll likely be roaring again next month when Kuntz and his teammate Nick Saldiveri are almost certainly selected in the NFL Draft.

Kutz is a Penn State transfer from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and played parts of two seasons for ODU. He was second in the nation among tight ends with 73 pass receptions and was named All-Conference USA first-team in 2021 when the Monarchs went to the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Kuntz was injured in game five of the 2022 season, missing the rest of the season and a chance to play in the Senior Bowl, but was healthy enough to play in the NFL Combine, where he put up stunning numbers.

He ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash and had a 40-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-8 long jump. And he scored a perfect 10 on the Relative Athletic Score, which measures a player’s measurements and compares them to their peers – it was the highest score for a close finish in decades.

While many rating services put him in the third or fourth round of the NFL draft, thedraftnetwork.com predicted that “Kuntz could be drafted as high as the second round.”

Former Monarch defensive end Oshana Ximines was a third-round pick in 2019, the highest-ever draft pick for an ODU player.

For Kuntz, one of five siblings who grew up in a modest home, the offseason has been an exciting ride. A former state champion in track and field and an all-state basketball player, everyone in his family was an athlete, including his parents.

The simple joy of going from college football player to man auditioning for NFL coaches is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“The whole process was just great,” he said. “We all come to Pro Day every year, so it’s always been a dream come true for me.

BR Hatcher
BR Hatcher hopes to sign a free agent contract with an NFL team.

“You know, it’s finally my turn, so I was excited to go into the process full-throttle.”

Offensive lineman Nick Saldiveria 6 foot 6, 318 pound Waxhaw, North Carolina was the other main attraction at the ODU Pro Day.

Saldiveri competed in the Senior Bowl, where he received rave reviews from NFL coaches and scouts, and also did well in the Combine. Sports Illustrated rates him as a likely pick for the sixth round.

Saldiveri also grew up in modest circumstances and is just as grateful as Kuntz for the future path.

“It’s a very long process, so I took it one day at a time,” he said. “It was fun,” he added with a smile.

Saldiveri said there is still work to be done before the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 27th until 29.04th.

He’ll travel to individual training sessions for maybe a half-dozen NFL teams and do interviews with dozens more, and the interviewing process can take an odd turn.

In an interview he was asked how many ways you can use a brick. Kuntz said he was asked if he went into a fast food restaurant and saw napkins on a table, would he use them or throw them away?

He said he used them to wipe the table. The NFL official who interviewed him laughed.

“The interviews are much more about football than anything else,” said Saldiveri. “They want to see how you learn. They want to see what you know about the game once you’ve mastered your college offense.

“And they’re trying to get to know you as a person.”

Eleven others also took part in the Pro Day.

BR Hatcher, a long snapper from Jefferson, South Carolina, had an unblemished record in four seasons with ODU. Every extra point, field goal, and punt snap he’s made in 35 games — missing most of 2022 through injury — has been spot on. At 6-5, 240 pounds, its size is a bonus.

Hatcher was again flawless in his snaps on Friday.

“I spoke to my agent and he said there were a couple of teams interested,” Hatcher said. “They’ve mostly just been waiting to see the numbers that come out of it.”

Offensive tackle Tyran Hunt, a 6-7, 318-pound offensive lineman, impresses with his size and speed. Tight end Donta Anthony, whose role increased when Kuntz went down with an injury, had some nice catches. He has trained under former ODU wide receiver Larry Pinkard in Northern Virginia.

Other participants included defensive end linebackers Steven Williams and Ryan Henry Mark HaynesSafety R’Tarriun Johnson, cornerbacks Tre Hawkins III And Tobias HarrisDefensive tackle Tyree Bibby and place kicker Dominik Soos. Darius Hagans, a Virginia running back from Chesapeake, also participated.

Soos wasn’t ODU’s starting seed kicker, but he drilled field goals from 58 and 60 yards with enough room and drew a crowd ovation, a rare occurrence on a Pro Day. Soos took over as kickoff from ODU and consistently put the ball in the end zone until the end of the season.

But Soos doesn’t even have an agent.

Dominik Soos
Dominik Soos Kicking at the ODU Pro Day.

“I had nothing to lose by coming here today,” he said.

In fact, he didn’t. After almost everyone else had left the stadium, an NFL scout pulled Soos aside and did a quick interview with him.

Hatcher said he’s ready to emulate former ODU long snapper Rick Lovato, who like Hatcher started four years and was flawless. Lovato kept trying and getting cut from team to team for almost two years. Between stints at NFL camps, he made sandwiches at the family’s deli in New Jersey and exercised several hours each day.

He later signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and played in two Super Bowls.

“I mean, it’s all in God’s timing,” Hatcher said. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity, just everything that’s happened for me so far.

“If it takes time, I’ll just keep my head down and keep working.”

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