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Ex-Wolverine Gentry has no regrets about leaving school early, says he's ready for NFL

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Zach Gentry, who decided after the Peach Bowl to head to the NFL rather than return to Michigan for his final season, measured 6-foot-8 1/8 at the NFL Combine this week,

Indianapolis — Tight end Zach Gentry totally gets it. Yes, he’s enormous, and people built like him — even if they’re football players by trade — are rarely considered swift and agile.

Gentry, who decided after the Peach Bowl to head to the NFL rather than return to Michigan for his final season, measured 6-foot-8 1/8 at the NFL Combine this week, tallest among the deep class of tight ends. He also weighed in at 265. He fully expects to dazzle NFL coaches with his mobility.

“I think I’m athletic,” Gentry, who arrived at Michigan as a highly regarded quarterback before moving to tight end at Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s suggestion in 2015, said Friday. “I move a lot better than people maybe give me credit for. I think they’ll see that.”

So who exactly has been doubting Gentry’s athleticism?

“As much as I try not to read things, I think a lot of people assume that just because (my) height was 6-8, weight 265 —  I’m not blaming anybody,” Gentry said during an interview session at the Indianapolis Convention Center. “If I see somebody 6-8, 265, I’m not going to think maybe they’re the fastest guy in the world. I think I’ll be faster than everybody thinks I’m going to be.”

Gentry has been in Frisco, Texas, training at Exos, where he has worked on combine preparation like speed training, the 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drills.

Early this week during a conference call, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he thought Gentry should have stayed at Michigan for another season. After being named the team’s most improved offensive player in 2017, Gentry was third in receiving last season with 32 catches for 514 yards and two touchdowns. During the regular season, 21 of 30 catches were for first downs or touchdowns.

While Gentry said it was a difficult decision to leave, he’s happy with it and not concerned about anyone second-guessing him.

“I felt like I was personally mature enough physically and mentally to handle the transition,” Gentry said when asked why he felt he could make the jump to the NFL. “It was a tough decision obviously. I just felt I was ready physically, mentally, I was ready to move on. The decision’s been made. What’s done is done. I’m happy with it. I think I have done a really good job. I think I’m going to do well. You’re going to have depth every year at the NFL Draft in every position because you’re fighting for a job in the National Football League. I don’t think it matters a whole lot when you come out. I think it matters how you feel when you come out.”

Before the Peach Bowl, Gentry said he received a grade from the NFL that he was pleased with. He announced his decision about a week later. Gentry said he called Harbaugh and the coach was gracious and told him he would do well at the next level.

“It was right around the bowl game,” Gentry said, when asked when he decided to leave. “I didn’t want to think about it a whole lot leading up to then because I wanted to make sure I gave my college career the ending that I wanted it to be. I didn’t think about it a whole lot until the very end. Consulted a lot of coaches, family and friends about the decision. Comfortable with it.”

Gentry has had formal meetings with the Cowboys and was expected to meet Friday with the Patriots and Steelers.

Because he made the transition from quarterback to tight end, teams have asked him about his physicality in terms of blocking. Blocking initially was problematic for Gentry after he first made the transition, but he worked at it and become comfortable with that aspect of the game.

“They throw on the tape, and they’re able to see, I think most of my problems in the blocking area are small mechanical raw things that I need to clean up,” Gentry said. “All of the teams have acknowledged there’s a good deal of physicality. I’m not afraid of the contact and to throw my body in there. It’s more so just kind of figuring out the footwork.

“I’ve always been a competitor and aggressive. It wasn’t really the hardest thing ever. It was more so putting your body in the right position.”

Gentry, who had always imagined himself at the combine as a quarterback, said he will watch the NFL Draft with his family in New Mexico. He has heard his draft prospects run anywhere from the second to fifth rounds, but he isn’t paying much mind to projections.

He said he will be an all-around solid pick for any NFL team.

“Off the field, I’m somebody who is going to do everything right — never miss a meeting, never miss a lift, never cause any issues,” he said. “I think I do a good job of making the contested catch. I’m not afraid to throw my face in there and block. I’m working on being a complete tight end."