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Waiting game

All visits with NFL teams have been wrapped up and now it becomes a waiting game for Eagle Point’s Tyrone Holmes.

And that may be the toughest part for the University of Montana standout and 2015 FCS defensive player of the year.

The NFL draft Thursday through Saturday simply cannot come fast enough for Holmes, who is one of many hoping to hear their name called in a once-in-a-lifetime experience but carries no guarantees.

“When you’re in a game, you can just try harder and go out there and try to make plays,” Holmes said of his current helpless state, “but at this point I‘ve just got to trust all the work I’ve put in and the film will speak for itself. Hopefully I’ll get a shot somewhere. It doesn’t matter where or when, and if I get a foot in the door there’s a chance to make a team.”

“It is hard waiting but I just try to keep in mind that this is all out of my control and I can’t really do anything about it,” he added. “Obviously I think about it all day every day but I just try not to get too worked up about it.”

While the 2012 Eagle Point High graduate may be holding at an even keel these days, his draft status appears to be rising.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pound Holmes led the nation with 18 sacks in his senior season and finished his Montana career ranked second in school history with 34 sacks and 49½ tackles for loss. The general consensus — as well as a host of mock drafts — show Holmes is likely to be drafted somewhere in the sixth or seventh round, but he’s not taking anything for granted

“I’m pretty much in the dark on it,” Holmes said of his draft status. “From what I could tell it seems like most teams have a draftable grade on me but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be drafted.”

“I know I’m not going to be a first-round pick but we’ll see,” he added. “Everyone has an opinion. All these guys have mock drafts but I’m not too sure how accurate these things turn out because no one really knows. There are 32 (NFL general managers) making these decisions and hopefully one of them likes me enough to use a pick on me.”

It’s that cloak and dagger aspect of the pre-draft process that has Holmes on his heels.

There were around 20 NFL scouts on hand for his pro day in Montana, and he’s had the opportunity to speak personally with a dozen or so team representatives to go with another handful of visits to team headquarters.

With no one interested in tipping their hand, be it privately or publicly, Holmes said he has no idea which team may be the most interested in bringing the pass-rusher into camp. That’s OK, though, because he’s open for any opportunity.

“I’d be ecstatic to play for any NFL team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me where that is.”

Holmes’ pre-draft experience began with his inclusion in the East-West Shrine Game, in which he fared well, but he surprisingly was left out of the NFL Combine process — a decision that didn’t sit well with him.

“It obviously motivated me to work harder because I thought I should be invited,” said Holmes, whose agent is Noel LaMontagne of Eastern Athletic Services. “It’s just not very often that the defensive player of the year doesn’t get an invite, but it is what it is. Throughout this whole process I’ve just been trying to control what I can control and that’s to show the best version of me to whoever I can get to.”

At the University of Montana pro day, he definitely put on a show for the scouts.

Holmes showcased his athleticism by clocking 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 7.0 seconds in the three-cone drill and 4.30 seconds in the shuttle. He did 28 reps in the bench press, posted a vertical leap of 37½ inches and a broad jump of 9 feet, 5 inches.

Those figures would have ranked him in the top five among defensive ends in five of the six events at the NFL Combine, with his 40-yard time first overall and his vertical leap second.

Based on his measurables and production at Montana, NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt dubbed Holmes as one of his 16 sleepers — and one of only two defensive ends — among those not invited to the combine but with draftable grades.

Leading up to his pro day, Holmes took part in workouts with former NFL defensive lineman Keith Millard to further hone his pass-rushing skills and said he learned a lot from the experience.

One of the prevailing themes heading into the draft is that Holmes could be in line for a slight position switch, possibly moving to outside linebacker for teams that run a 3-4 scheme. Again, Holmes, who was a Class 5A state champion in the 110-meter hurdles and shot put and second in the discus, said he has no concerns if he’s asked to remain at defensive end or move to outside linebacker.

“It’s almost the same thing, I’m playing on the end of the line of scrimmage for either one,” he said. “It’s just as outside linebacker I’d be dropping back in coverage sometimes. I played end in college and I think I could do that at the next level but, at the same time, I’m athletic enough that if they want me to drop I can drop and cover. It’s just something I haven’t been asked to do very much. The teams I’ve talked to say they don’t really think it’s going to be an issue from the way I’ve tested and run.”

The fact that he has such versatility could be a benefit when it comes time for teams looking to fill voids at the back end of the draft, at least that’s Holmes’ hope.

“You don’t really know anything because all the GMs are trying to keep things quiet because they don’t want anyone to know what they’re thinking,” he added.

He’ll find out soon enough in comfortable confines, with Holmes planning a return to Eagle Point this week to share the experience with his family.

“I’m not going to watch the draft until Day 3,” he said, “and even then I’ll probably just hang out with my family and keep it real low key.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Senior defensive end Tyrone Holmes, from Eagle Point, led the nation with 18 sacks for Montana last fall and was chosen FCS defensive player of the year. He has been impressive in workouts for scouts leading up to the NFL draft, which starts Thursday. PHOTO FROM UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA