Long road, thrilling payoff: Pinckney’s Sieler drafted by NFL’s Ravens

When he graduated from Pinckney High School in 2013, Zach Sieler was considered too small to play defensive line in college football.

He weighed 220 pounds, and Pinckney coach Rod Beaton, then the team’s defensive coordinator, said it was hard to get college coaches to even look at him.

“It was a hurdle,” Beaton said. “We were trying to tell these coaches, he’s young. We really feel he’s going to put on some weight. But they didn’t see it at the time.”

At the time, Pinckney had also endured a decade of poor results on the field as well. Sieler went undrafted and finally signed with Ferris State as a walk-on.

Given the opportunity, Sieler flourished, and the result of his hard work came Saturday, when he was drafted in the seventh round by the Baltimore Ravens.

Sieler got the call on Saturday during a draft party at the Zukey Lake Tavern. It was made by Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Sieler is the first Ferris State player to be drafted and at least the third from Livingston County, following Mark Messner (Hartland, U-M), Drew Henson (Brighton, U-M) and Morgan Trent (Brighton, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, U-M), all of whom were taken in the sixth round. 

Several players with Livingston County ties have signed as undrafted free agents, the most recent being the late Cullen Finnerty, who dressed for two games with the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 after a distinguished career at Grand Valley State, a GLIAC rival of Ferris State.

After sitting out his first two years due to a redshirt year and an injury that forced him to miss a second year, Sieler blossomed as a player in 2016 as a sophomore and was dominant in 2017, setting a Ferris State record with 589 career tackles for loss and tying a school mark with ff33 sacks.

And, as Beaton predicted Sieler did add some weight. At 6-feet-6, he is listed at 290 pounds.

The Sielers had a draft party at Zukey Lake Tavern, and

He’s become part of a pipeline of Pinckney linemen, including Noah Pelto, who is a Pinckney assistant coach who played at Northwood; his brother, Adam, an offensive lineman, and Wes Smith, a defensive lineman. Another Pinckney standout, Cauy Hendee, has signed to play at Ferris State next year.

But it’s what Zach Sieler represents that, at least in the short run, has already made a powerful impact on the Pirates football team.

“We’re always telling these kids, ‘Hey. man, you commit, you work hard and get after it, and good things can happen for you, no matter what you’re doing,'” Beaton said. “So many times we talk about stuff and kids can’t see outside the little bubble they live in, that they can do these huge things.”

Sieler graduated in December with a degree, then wowed scouts with his workout at a pro day in Ann Arbor last month. It’s been a rapid ascent for a kid who went from no scholarship offers anywhere out of high school to being an NFL draft choice.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the kid who worked his tail off from day one, and never gave up,” former Pinckney coach Jakob Gailitis said. “He was never deterred, which was the bigger thing. He was redshirted, then he had the injury that kept him out for two years before he played. It never deterred him. He was like, I’m OK. I’m going to be playing. I’m lifting, doing all those things right. It’s that never-give-up attitude. He was never fazed by anything. It’s just so incredible and still amazing. I smile every time I think about it. Such a great family, he just deserves it.”

“Zach’s faced a tremendous amount of adversity,” Beaton said. “Once he had his chance, his third year up there, he ran with it. He commited himself to the weight room, took care of his body, worked, worked, worked, got his degree and now has a chance to make a career in the NFL.”



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