Don't waste your time looking for recruiting data on Chad Newell, Caleb Kidder and Brady Gustafson coming out of high school — you won't find it. The way the ratings services saw it, they weren't four-star guys, or even two-star guys. Heck, they don't even have a webpage from their high school days.
Yet all three will be in NFL rookie mini-camps next month.
Newell, Montana State's star running back, and Kidder and Gustafson, Montana's star defensive lineman and quarterback — all share something in common. They played their high school ball in Billings and Helena, Montana, which when it comes to prep recruiting, may as well be an outpost. The great thing about the NFL though is that it is big business, and scouts will go anywhere to mine talent.
Also, playing at Montana or Montana State doesn't exactly fit the "wasteland" description. These two FCS programs finished in the top six in attendance in the nation, and they have definitely contributed to the NFL.
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Thanks to what these three Montana natives have done on the field the past few seasons, along with how their Pro Days went in March, they're in the mix for the NFL Draft and/or a priority free agent slot. In a little more than a week, they'll know where they're heading.
"The scouts I've talked to like Montana guys in general," Newell told HERO Sports. "They like the toughness that you get when you come from the great state of Montana … I think you see this at this level a lot, that maybe we were overlooked in high school.
But the underdog role is something a lot of guys grow into and it drives you. Definitely for myself, being in the underdog position helps you with the days when you don't want to get up at 5:30 a.m. and get in that extra workout, because you weren't given the same opportunities as those guys who are sleeping in. It's common, not just for those of us from Montana, but for the FCS level."
Newell began his career with the Bobcats as a walk-on in 2012. He kicked off his career being a special teams warrior, and worked his way up to being a 2,000-yard feature back during his time in Bozeman. He and Kidder once did battle in high school football, and they did it again in college — locking horns several times, according to Kidder.
But Kidder — who was the 2011 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Montana — said he and Newell are on the exact same page now. Newell played at Billings Senior HS and Kidder was at Helena Capital HS.
"In college, he represented one half of the state and we represented the other half," Kidder told HERO Sports. "But now it's not about the rivalry we had in college."
Both Newell and Kidder did very well in their on-campus Pro Days — their individual chance to impress pro scouts. When Kidder — who is 6-foot-5, 269 pounds — ran a 4.72-second time in the 40-yard dash, that woke up some scouts. His 30 reps of benching 225 pounds also turned heads, while his 3-cone "quickness" time (6.91 seconds) would have put him at the top three among D-linemen at the NFL Combine, if of course he'd been invited.
His reps on the 225 would have been tied for fourth among DLs. Bottom line, Kidder is a great athlete. Newell, who projects as a fullback for the next level, showed his quickness with a 6.8-time in the 3-cone drill.
Both efforts have led them to the pro radar screen. And Gustafson did well in position drills in front of a dozen scouts. Now all they can do is wait to see their fate. Did they impress enough to be a day three draft pick? Will they have five free agent options if not drafted? Time will tell.
"Everything I've heard is that the scouts love the way I play football, my demeanor, my attitude," said Kidder, who told HERO Sports that Baltimore and Seattle have talked to him the most. "The Ravens told me I play with RLM — Ray Lewis mentality. They said they've seen that in me, and that's what attracts them.
"I've played every position in the front seven and I'll do it again if helps out."