Former Titan participates in Pro Day

Erik Buchinger

Former UW Oshkosh tight end Joe Sommers finished among the top players in multiple events at Wisconsin’s Pro Day on March 9 in front of 31 representatives from 26 NFL teams at the Dave McClain Athletic Facility in Madison. Participants alongside Sommers included 12 former Wisconsin players and four others from the WIAC, including former Titans’ wide receiver Zach Kasuboski. Sommers recorded the highest vertical of the group with 36 inches. He finished third in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.61 and placed second in the bench press with 23 reps of 225 pounds. While Sommers had high expectations for himself, he said others may have doubted his athletic ability as a Division III athlete. “I met my expectations,” Sommers said. “I think other people didn’t know I was going to do that well because I’m a small-school guy, but myself and people close to me knew I was capable of the numbers I put up. There’s a lot of jitters for a guy that’s not been on the big stage that often, but I was happy with my numbers.” After graduating from UWO following the fall semester, Sommers signed with agent Ron Slavin of BTI Sports Advisors. “I’ve had some success with some Division III guys, so Joe reached out to me based on that,” Slavin said. Slavin has represented former Division III athletes who moved on to the NFL including Tony Beckham, Clint Kriewaldt, Derek Carrier and Jake Kumerow. “NFL teams view Division III athletes more as a player being a project,” Slavin said. “It’s such a big jump in competition.” In late December, Sommers and his dad, Mike, met with Brad Arnett of NX Level Sports Performance training facility in Waukesha. “I met with them and talked them through the process,” Arnett said. “I wanted to help him understand the process of what he has to go to through and what’s going to be involved. He wanted to come train right away and we got started and went to work.” For 10 weeks, Sommers trained at NX Level five days per week for 3-4 hours a day. “The biggest thing for Joe is that the NFL puts a lot of stock in straight-end speed because the position of tight end has changed,” Arnett said. “They’ll use a tight end or combo guy to use as just a blocker, but they also want tight ends that can give them a vertical threat as someone who can catch the ball – kind of like [Rob] Gronkowski types.” Also training at NX Level in different sessions were NFL players J.J. Watt, DeAndre Levy, Dan France, Kevin Zeitler, Emmett Cleary, Nick Hayden and Chris Maragos. “They worked out right before us, and we were there at the same time as them quite often,” Sommers said. “It was cool to interact with them a little bit, and they gave us some tips on what to expect.” After the Pro Day, Sommers moved back to his parents’ house in Hortonville where he will be training to stay in shape before the NFL Draft. He also said he plans to run routes 2-3 times per week with UWO quarterbacks Brett Kasper and Connor Senger. Slavin said he spoke with all 32 NFL teams about Sommers and had serious conversations with about 18-20 of them with private workouts coming in the future. “He’ll be working out for the Packers at Green Bay,” Slavin said. “They have a local workout for anybody that grew up around the Green Bay area. The Kansas City Chiefs are going to bring him in for a visit as well.” With the NFL Draft coming up on April 28-30, Sommers said all he wants is an opportunity. “Teams have graded me from the seventh round to a priority free agent, which is what a few teams had me before the Pro Day,” Sommers said. “I’m not expecting anything but just to get a chance basically.” Following Wisconsin’s Pro Day, Senior Analyst Gil Brandt had a brief write-up of Sommers on the league’s official website, listing his results and wrote that scouts described said he was looking good moving around and catching passes. “Last spring, I would have said I was surprised, but this has been a reality for the last three months,” Sommers said. “I’ve devoted my life to it, so it’s almost expected. It doesn’t hit me too deep anymore. It’s starting to become a reality.”