Aztecs begin to hear names on Day 3 of NFL Draft

by Anthony Reclusado, Sports Editor

After two days and three rounds without a single San Diego State, or any other Mountain West prospect, hearing their name from Philadelphia, the birds came to the rescue early on Day 3.

Former Aztec offensive guard Nico Siragusa was the first from Montezuma Mesa to be selected with the Baltimore Ravens calling his name with the 16th pick – 122nd overall – in the fourth round.

After redshirting his freshman season, Siragusa played in every game the last four years and started each contest in his final three seasons. He was named first-team all-MW the last two years.

The 6-foot-4, 319-pound guard anchored an offensive line that opened running lanes for two 1,000-yard rushers in Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price in 2015 and a then school-record 3,266 rushing yards.

Siragusa, and his other lineman, came back in 2016 to only break those records, as they cleared the way for the first ever FBS backfield duo to rush for a 2,000-yard and 1,000-yard season. The team again set the single season rushing record with 3,680 yards, including Pumphrey’s school-record 2,133 yards.

Always being patient and with his lineman leading the way, Pumphrey didn’t have to wait long after Siragusa to hear his name announced. With the 132nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Pumphrey in the fourth round.

The all-time leading NCAA rusher, ran for no less than 1,600 yards since he took over the starting spot in 2014. Pumphrey also proved he’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and when split wide, as he hauled in 100 receptions in his four years donning the Scarlet and Black.

Despite his versatility and record breaking collegiate career, he was knocked for his size by NFL scouts. Standing at 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, Pumphrey is not a prototypical NFL running back, where even the smallest guys – Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead – carry 20 to 30 more pounds on their frames.

But Pumphrey is going to an Eagle franchise that houses a running back who also was bombarded with question marks for his size when he entered the league: Sproles.

With the gold standard of undersized backs as his mentor, it’s now whether, or when, his skillset, which is varied, will translate to the NFL. But if Pumphrey has proved anything the last four years, he has proved he is patient.

However, another Aztec had to prove his patience a little bit longer, as cornerback Damontae Kazee was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 149th overall pick in the fifth round.

In his time at SDSU, he snagged 17 career interceptions, including 15 in the last two years. He also tallied 15 pass breakups in the same time frame. Those numbers garnered him back-to-back MW Defensive Player of the Year accolades in 2015-16.

With superior ballhawk abilities, Kazee will be able to challenge for playing time as a slot corner. And in a conference with the likes of Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Jameis Winston, the Falcons will need all the depth they can get from their secondary.

Aside from his nose for the ball, Kazee is a willing tackler, which can be hard to find from cornerbacks. In his last two seasons, he accounted for 140 tackles, including 103 unassisted stops.

Other Aztecs are still hopeful to hear their name called on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, including linebacker Calvin Munson and tight end Daniel Brunskill. Perhaps they can finish the bird mascot sweep and be selected by the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.