Varsity Extra

Mountain View’s Horn, Payette’s Kuder fighting for NFL roster spots

Tyler Horn celebrates his only catch as a Bronco, an interception against Wyoming on Oct. 24.
Tyler Horn celebrates his only catch as a Bronco, an interception against Wyoming on Oct. 24. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

No NFL teams called the names of Mountain View High graduate Tyler Horn or Payette High alumnus Tyler Kuder during last week’s NFL Draft.

But the free-for-all only begins with the 253rd and final pick of the draft, Mr. Irrelevant. Phone lines start buzzing as all 32 NFL teams scramble to scoop up the undrafted free agents, trying to fill holes still remaining after the draft.

The Green Bay Packers inked Kuder to help address their defensive line issues, and the Kansas City Chiefs invited Horn to their rookie minicamp with the plan to convert him into a tight end.

TYLER HORN, MOUNTAIN VIEW

Boise State coaches joked they should move Horn to tight end throughout his career.

He never took it seriously. He shifted around the defensive line during his five-year career with the Broncos. At Mountain View, he spent all four years at defensive end except for a handful of snaps on the offensive line as a freshman and sophomore.

But when Boise State’s strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman said after the season that NFL scouts would like to see him run routes, Horn didn’t bat an eye.

“My mindset was I’ll do whatever it takes,” Horn said. “Since I’ve been young, I’ve always wanted to play football at Boise State. And then once I got here, I wanted to play in the NFL.

“Whatever it takes.”

Horn kept his defensive lineman workouts, preparing in case an NFL team still wanted the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Horn on defense after totaling 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a senior. He’d then stay late running routes with CFL quarterback Mitchell Gale for a crash course in a foreign position.

The extra work paid off when Kansas City invited Horn to its rookie minicamp Saturday through Monday.

“I have pretty good size for tight end, and I can catch good enough,” Horn said. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. I think the idea of me going in and being kind of a physical tight end, teams like that.”

Horn said Kansas City’s offense favors three-tight-end sets. The Chiefs carried four tight ends last season, and they currently have five on their roster.

After playing all across the defensive front at Boise State, Horn views moving to tight end as just another position change.

“It was tough at the beginning, and I’m sure it’ll be tough at camp never playing it before,” Horn said. “But I’ve been a football player my whole life, and it is what it is. I’m just ready to get in there and compete and do my best.”

TYLER KUDER, PAYETTE

Kuder has never followed a traditional path.

As a senior at Payette High, he signed with Idaho only to fall two points short on his ACT. A chance meeting with a Montana Western coach at a Pocatello Maverik gas station led him to the NAIA program in Dillon, Mont., for a year. Then he transferred to Idaho State looking for a tougher challenge and earned first-team All-Big Sky as a senior.

His career took another turn last week, when Green Bay scooped up the defensive lineman after the NFL Draft as a free agent. And he followed that life-changing call by making another one, turning to his girlfriend Lindsey Schroeder and proposing in the Pocatello Mexican restaurant where 40 friends and family members gathered to watch the draft.

She said yes.

“As soon as I got off the phone, I went and asked the big question,” Kuder said. “I’ve been thinking about it the last three months, and I figured that’d be the perfect proposal.”

The Packers provide Kuder with an opportunity. Nose tackle B.J. Raji’s surprise March retirement leaves a hole in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. Raji, 29, said he could return someday, but the Packers need bodies quickly.

Green Bay drafted UCLA’s Kenny Clark in the first round to fill the starting nose tackle spot. Mike Pennel, a 2014 undrafted free agent, also impressed last season, playing in all 16 games and starting five. But a substance-abuse suspension sidelines him for the first four games of 2016.

The Packers also signed UT-San Antonio nose tackle Brian Price after the draft.

The 6-3, 307-pound Kuder played end in Idaho State’s 3-4 defense last season, racking up 92 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. But he played nose tackle for the Bengals as a junior and sophomore.

Kuder said he hasn’t studied the Packers’ depth chart before leaving Thursday for Green Bay’s rookie minicamp on Sunday and Monday. But he’s confident in his chances to make the team.

“I’m just going in expecting to be at the bottom of the food chain and work my way up,” Kuder said.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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