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Former Bemidji State tight end Brian Leonhardt signs with Raiders

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Former Bemidji State University football All-American tight end Brian Leonhardt signed a three-year undrafted free agent contract with the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders late Sunday and was announced as one of 14 undrafted free agents by Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

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Leonhardt will participate in the Raiders rookie mini-camp May 10-12 at their Alameda practice facility. The rookie mini-camp includes first-year players, draftees, undrafted free agents, tryout players and last season’s practice squad players.

“It’s a dream come true,” Leonhardt said. “Every kid grows up dreaming to play in the NFL and now I’m going to get a chance to. It’s surreal getting that contract, having it printed out and signing it. It was really special.

“After the draft, (Oakland’s) tight ends coach called me and said they were offering me a tryout. The next day my agent called me and was like hey, ‘They decided to sign you, you are now an Oakland Raider.’ I went from not being the happiest camper on Saturday, to being in a pretty good mood on Sunday.”

“I’m just elated for him,” said head Bemidji State football coach Jeff Tesch. “That was his dream to get into an NFL camp and now to have the opportunity, I couldn’t be more happy for him.”

Last season the Raiders went 4-12 with a 2-4 AFC West record.

The Raiders had three tight ends on their roster before drafting two more in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

Leonhard added, “It’s going to put me in a hard spot with them having two drafted tight ends, but I’m hoping they are going to give us all the same chance, (let us) build from there and compete for one of their starting spots.”

“Two weeks ago (Oakland) flew him in for a 5-hour interview, he didn’t workout or do anything,” Tesch said. “It was something they saw in the video or in that all-star game that they liked. For a Division II player (to make it to the next level), you have to be a rock solid kid, no problems off the field, a good student, good character and Brian is all that.”

In 87 seasons of football at Bemidji State, just one player has ever played a regular season game in the NFL. A 1986 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Second Team All-American running back, Al Wolden, played three games for the Chicago Bears during the 1987 season. He totaled two rushing attempts for eight yards and brought in one reception for 26 yards.

One of the most decorated student-athletes to ever don the green and white, Leonhardt was named All-American on the gridiron and Academic All-American off the field in both 2011 and 2012.

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