Aaron Neary’s NFL dream is now a reality.
The former Eastern Washington University standout offensive guard signed a free-agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos on Saturday following the conclusion of the final rounds of the NFL draft.
“When the decision was made, it was like a huge weight lifted off myself,” Neary said.
The two-time All-America offensive lineman had expected to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round, but said before the draft the most important thing was to be on an NFL roster.
I’m not content to make that 53-man roster. I want to make an impact on an game. That’s the next step. I’ll celebrate this milestone tonight. But when I wake up tomorrow, it’s back to work.
Aaron Neary, Denver Broncos OL
Neary, a former standout at Hanford High School, will fly down to Denver on Thursday for the start of a three-day rookie minicamp. He’ll return to Spokane on Sunday and then finish up his degree in history at EWU in Cheney.
He hadn’t planned on paying close attention to the draft Saturday, but ...
“You get to the point where you run out of things to do,” he said. “Golfing, we went fishing in the morning, went outside and threw the Frisbee. ‘Shoot, we’re out of things to do.’ ”
As the seventh and final round progressed, the phone calls began. When Broncos offensive line coach Clancy Barone called, it seemed like a good fit, Neary said.
“You can say that it’s a dream come true,” he said. “But I’m not content to make that 53-man roster. I want to make an impact on a game. That’s the next step.
“I’ll celebrate this milestone tonight. But when I wake up tomorrow, it’s back to work.”
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Alex Collins already stands out among his new Seattle Seahawks teammates — for his unusual hobby if nothing else.
Irish step dancing isn’t usually high on the list of interests for potential NFL running backs.
“I’m always on my toes and my lower body, my calf muscles and what not,” Collins said. “It’s a lot of fun working with them and learning something new, especially since I didn’t think I could do it.”
Collins was selected with the second of Seattle’s fifth-round picks during the final day of the draft on Saturday as the Seahawks continued to address depth in the offensive backfield after the retirement of Marshawn Lynch and with incumbent Thomas Rawls still recovering from a broken ankle suffered last December.
Collins had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Arkansas and 20 touchdowns rushing last season for the Razorbacks.
Before taking Collins, the Seahawks selected Maryland defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson earlier in the fifth round and then took TCU center Joey Hunt in the sixth round. Seattle rounded out the draft selecting California wide receiver Kenny Lawler and Clemson runningback Zac Brooks in the seventh round.
The final tally for Seattle: three offensive linemen, three running backs, two offensive linemen, a run-blocking tight end and a taller wide receiver with big hands. The three days were a reaffirmation that Seattle is still a run-first offense with a commitment to the line of scrimmage.
“It just feel like the adding of the big guys inside on both sides of the ball is really going to help us and it’s going to make it feel like it’s very, very competitive through the roster which brings out the best in everyone,” coach Pete Carroll said.
RETIRED? Seahawks general manager John Schneider said the team has not received retirement paperwork for Lynch.
After the conclusion of the draft Saturday, Schneider said the paperwork has not been filed with the league, but the Seahawks are prepared from a salary cap standpoint whether Lynch’s retirement becomes official before or after June 1.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Huskies Travis Feeney and Dwayne Washington were selected by NFL teams on the final day of the draft. Feeney was picked by the Steelers in the sixth round, while Washington went to Detroit in the seventh.
Feeney, an outside linebacker, was a four-year letterman at Washington, playing in a total of 52 games. In 2015, he led the Huskies with 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, ranking him third in the Pac-12 in both.
Feeney was named Washington’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2015 and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2014. He was second-team All-Pac-12 last fall.
WASHINGTON STATE: Cougars offensive lineman Joe Dahl was selected in the fifth round (151st overall) by the Detroit Lions.
Dahl, a Spokane native, was a USA Today second-team All-American and an All-Pac-12 first team selection this past season for the Cougars. He started 34 career games at WSU, was a two-time All-Pac-12 selection and earned Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention as a senior.