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NFL scouts zeroing in on UND's 6-foot-7 offensive lineman Matt Waletzko

Waletzko, a native of Cold Spring, Minn., is on the Watch List for the two biggest college football all-star games -- the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. Some scouts have told UND coaches that Waletzko could be a late-round draft choice but has the ability to play his way into the middle rounds during his senior season.

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UND offensive lineman Matt Waletzko runs across the turf at Memorial Stadium during morning practice on Monday, August 9, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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The four NFL scouts stood together in one corner of Memorial Stadium on Monday, each wearing polos of the teams they represent.

The Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts were all on hand and there was no doubt where they were looking.

All eyes were on 6-foot-7, 305-pound senior offensive tackle Matt Waletzko, a four-year starter and preseason Stats Perform FCS All-American.

"Some of his attributes with his arm length and footwork are going to get him a lot of attention at the next level," UND offensive coordinator Danny Freund said.

Freund said about 20 NFL teams have already scheduled visits for Grand Forks but more could be added to the mix as fall camp unfolds.

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"It has kind of been eye-opening right away, but I'm focusing on learning new stuff here at fall camp and taking it day by day like our motto says," Waletzko said. "For me, it's continuing to get better at the fundamentals and the overall picture -- reading defenses and knowing what they'll do."

Waletzko, a native of Cold Spring, Minn., is on the Watch List for the two biggest college football all-star games -- the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. Some scouts have told UND coaches that Waletzko could be a late-round draft choice but has the ability to play his way into the middle rounds during his senior season.

It's a remarkable path for a player with one Division I scholarship offer out of Rocori High School.

When Waletzko visited college campuses as a junior in high school, he was fresh off a foot injury during the basketball season and wasn't able to work out much. As a result, Waletzko was playing around 330 pounds.

"Normally, you recruit a frame and put weight on," Freund said. "At camps, he was 330 but he was a three-sport athlete and you could see the athleticism in the hips."

During UND's first fall camp in 2018, Waletzko lost 25 pounds.

"I wasn't really trying (to lose weight), but I was just sweating it off with that different kind of work," Waletzko said.

In fact, Waletzko lost enough weight over the next three years that he had to work at putting on an extra 10 pounds this offseason. Waletzko played last year around 295 pounds but some of the feedback from pro scouts was to add a little weight especially in his legs.

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"We knew he had the athleticism (coming out of high school), but we didn't know he'd change his body that much," Freund said. "He looks skinny. He looks 260. That's how Chris Kuper was when he was here."

The reference to Kuper is notable, considering Kuper was the last UND player to be drafted in the NFL Draft. Kuper, an offensive lineman from Alaska, went in the fifth round to the Denver Broncos in 2006 as he embarked on a successful pro career.

Kuper was the last UND player to exhaust his eligibility in Grand Forks to be drafted. In 2017, Kenny Golladay, who played two seasons at UND before transferring to Northern Illinois after a coaching change at UND, went in the third round of the draft to the Detroit Lions.

For UND this season, Waletzko's leadership will be important, considering the program will look to replace three starting interior offensive linemen from the spring season (center Nathan Nguon and guards Ryan Tobin and Kyle Hergel).

"I take full lead of this group," Waletzko said. "I think it's my job to lead by example and be the voice for the group."

When the team votes on captains this fall, Freund expects Waletzko to be in the mix.

"Whenever you can have a leader in the offensive line room, it's better for the team," Freund said. "You need leadership in that room that resonates with the entire team.

"A big part of (Waletzko's) game is how smart he is and he can teach a Peyton Lotysz or Andrew Fenton or Jack Kuntz or Easton Kilty. The maturity of those guys for us as a unit will be key to the season. They can't be a year away; it has to be this year."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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