There are a variety of Division III All-America teams, and St. John's guard Dan Greenheck was on one or more of those for his final three seasons. And last weekend, he was at the Senior Bowl, although as an enthused supporter of a linemate and not as a participant.
Ben Bartch, the Johnnies' left tackle, was the lone D-III athlete among the 110 seniors invited to Mobile, Ala.
Bartch is 6-5, 308 pounds and still has the mobility that allowed him to be a tight end for his first two years at St. John's.
Bartch was among the revelations during the three days of one-on-one workouts, before "tweaking'' a knee Thursday and missing Saturday's 68th annual Senior Bowl.
The accolades included praise from Scott Pioli — formerly Bill Belichick's right-hand man in New England — crediting Bartch with a terrific first day against FBS-level talent.
Greenheck was there to share in that opinion. He was in a group of six Bartch college roommates, a few other students and Bartch family members that spent part of the week in Mobile.
"Ben looked really good against guys from Florida, Alabama, big-time programs,'' Greenheck said. "What you heard were the football people talking about his footwork and hand placement.
"Really, he was the talk of the town for a couple of days. And this was great during the game on Saturday, when Ben wasn't playing: Jalen Hurts was just getting overrun as the quarterback for the South, stampeded, and someone next to us said, 'I wish that No. 75 [Bartch] was in there to give Hurts a chance.' "
Greenheck is 6-2 and played at 275 pounds. He had the will to be a great Johnnie, but not the measurables to be a pro prospect.
"I know it's over,'' he said. "I'm already down to 248 and want to lose 30 more pounds. It's good for the knees.''
There might be some positions on a football team (wide receiver?) where the attitude would be, "Why him, not me?''.
But offensive line, from the NFL to Division III to high school … these are different cats.
"When Ben found out he was invited to the Senior Bowl, we went nuts,'' said Nick Neumann, a center and lone Johnnies' returning starter on the line for 2020.
"Every day on a football field, you're in it together, and when something great happens — like Dan being a three-time All-America — we treat it like it's a win for all of us.
"Watching the video of Ben against those FBS studs, reading what all the scouts were saying about his work in those one-and-one drills … it was almost unreal.
"Actually, that feeling started during the season, when we started seeing scouts at our practices — a couple, then a few, then quite a few.
"Those NFL guys coming up to watch a practice at our little old D-III school in the North Woods; my feeling was, 'Go for it, Ben.' "
St. John's season ended with a 35-32 loss at Wisconsin-Whitewater in the national semifinals Dec. 14.
Bartch signed a few days later with Rep1 Football. That agency has done well with non-FBS players (Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and tight end Dallas Goedert) and also offensive linemen, including the Vikings' Brian O'Neill.
Bartch's tweaked knee has not prevented him from getting right into preparation for the NFL combine (starting Feb. 23).
By Monday, he had checked in at Sports Science Lab in Irvine, Calif., and was working with "10 or 11'' other Rep1 clients.
Bartch comes from Dayton, Ore. He played high school football 20 miles away at Blanchet Catholic in Salem. His family has a cabin near the Boundary Waters, where he spent time in the summer.
When he didn't get Division I offers, he looked at Minnesota schools and wound up at St. John's: From tight end to left tackle and now — if the knee is only "tweaked'' and Bartch is full go at the combine — a probable selection by the end of the second day (second or third round) of the NFL draft.
"The Senior Bowl was a tremendous experience — and eye-opening,'' Bartch said. "I would call playing football at St. John's a pleasant experience. You work hard, you prepare, but it's not your whole life.
"You find out from the moment you check in at the Senior Bowl that everything's changed. The NFL is going to break down everything to minute detail.
"Getting away with a small mistake, in technique, in anything … that's over. Football is your business.''
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