Former Bison defensive end Tuszka drafted by Broncos

North Dakota State defensive end Derrek Tuszka helped anchor the Bison defensive line last season. The Denver Broncos selected Tuszka in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO — North Dakota State defensive lineman Derrek Tuszka is headed back Colorado, where he trained for the NFL Draft. It paid off. The Denver Broncos selected Tuszka in the seventh round at No. 254 overall Saturday, April 25.

“To be able to tell anyone that you were drafted by the NFL is a pretty special day," Bison head coach Matt Entz said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s first round or seventh round, it’s a special day for him and his family and a special day for the Bison.”

Tuszka, who was the second to last pick, is the second Bison player to be drafted in the past two seasons and five in the last seven years. Former NDSU quarterback Easton Stick was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Chargers picked Stick at No. 166 overall last year. Tuszka projects to play defensive end or outside linebacker in some schemes in the NFL.

"Derrek provides a team with a guy who has the ability to put his hand in the ground and be an edge guy, a true edge defensive end," Entz said. "But I think a lot of NFL guys were really impressed with his ability to move in space. I wouldn't be surprised to see him do some things into the boundary being a stand-up outside linebacker at the NFL level."

Two other Bison players will get a shot to make an NFL team, including tight end Ben Ellefson from Hawley, Minn., who trained with Tuszka at Landow Performance outside of Denver. He's headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars and offensive lineman Zack Johnson signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers.


Ellefson will go to a Jaguars team that currently lists four tight ends on its roster, including former Illinois State standout James O’Shaughnessy. Rookie Josh Oliver, a third round pick from San Jose State, played in four games last season, while rookie Charles Jones from Tulane spent most of the season on the practice squad. Jacksonville acquired seven-year veteran Tyler Eifert from the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason.

Tuszka was the sixth and final Division I Football Championship Subdivision player selected in this year's draft, a particularly low number. There were 13 FCS players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, and 19 the year before in 2018. The Carolina Panthers drafted Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn with the final selection of the second round Friday at No. 64 overall.

"He doesn't have the long arms that you want, but he's got production for days, one sack after another," said Daniel Jeremiah, an NFL Network analyst. "He's got a nice get off and he's a fantastic finisher. ... Just a really good football player."

Tuszka and Chinn were the only two Missouri Valley Football Conference players drafted. The Dallas Cowboys selected James Madison quarterback Ben DiNucci in the seventh round. NDSU and JMU were the last two teams standing in the FCS. JMU had five players sign free agent contracts including notable defensive linemen Ron'Dell Carter (Cowboys) and John Daka (Baltimore Ravens).

One theory to the low number of FCS players was the lack of pro days due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event on college campuses where NFL scouts get a first-hand look at players. NDSU canceled its pro day, but Tuszka played in the East-West Shrine game in January and also participated in the NFL Combine.

"The only thing Derrek and any of these young men can control is the level of football that they put on film," Entz said.

Broncos general manager John Elway wrote this about Tuszka on his Twitter account: "Our final pick of the draft was edge rusher Derrek Tuszka of North Dakota State. He gives great effort and plays his tail off. Good speed, good character and has a chance to really develop."

The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Tuszka had 13 1/2 sacks in his final season with the Bison, including one in the FCS national championship game against James Madison. NDSU earned a 28-20 victory against the Dukes on Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas, for a third consecutive national championship.


Tuszka played in 53 games during his Bison career, finishing with 29 1/2 sacks. He played in 45 games over the past three seasons. NDSU posted a 45-1 record during that time.

"I know he's going to work plenty hard," Entz said. "There is no doubt about energy level and his work ethic going into Denver."

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