Spaeth drafted in third round

Last season, Minnesota tight end Matt Spaeth capped off a Gophers career that made him the school leader in numerous tight end statistical categories. And on Saturday, he was rewarded for his efforts...
By
  • Mark Remme
April 30, 2007

Last season, Minnesota tight end Matt Spaeth capped off a Gophers career that made him the school leader in numerous tight end statistical categories.

And on Saturday, he was rewarded for his efforts.

The St. Michael, Minn., native was selected in the third round of the NFL draft, 77th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His selection marked the first tight end to be drafted out of Minnesota since Kevin Starks in 1986.

In a less-than-conventional fashion, Spaeth found out about the Steelers' pick while grabbing a bite to eat in the clubhouse after a round of golf.

But the effect of hearing where he's going had just as much impact as if he were sitting at Radio City Music Hall in New York for the draft.

"It was such a relief just finding out where I'm going," Spaeth said. "I'm going to a great organization - a class organization - and I couldn't be happier."

Spaeth's accolades, which include holding the school record for tight end receptions (109) and receiving yards (1,293), made him a viable candidate for Pittsburgh's offensive scheme.

Coupled with Spaeth's blocking ability that helped staple a dominant Gophers' offensive line, and his presence should bolster a Steelers offense that prides itself on hard-nosed football.

"He's a great blocking tight end," former Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito said. "They like to run the ball, but he can catch real well, which can help open up their passing game."

Cupito said he hadn't spoken to Spaeth since he was drafted, but expects good fortune and an immediate impact from his former teammate, who was one of his primary targets throughout the 2006 season.

"He won't be waiting around (to play)," Cupito said. "I know they've got another tight end there that's pretty good (Heath Miller), but (Spaeth) should go right in there and learn while making a quick impact."

Spaeth mentioned Miller when discussing the depth chart and said he's looking forward to the chance to learn from the third-year player out of Virginia.

"He's a great tight end," Spaeth said. "I'm looking forward to working with a guy like him."

Pittsburgh is two years removed from a Super Bowl Championship and coming off a season in which it missed the playoffs and had long-time coach Bill Cowher resign. Still, the Steelers show serious potential as a contender next season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coupled with wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward on offense, while the defense is stacked with enough talent to render a new era version of the "Steel Curtain."

And with blocking schemes and pass routes that Spaeth said are similar to what he's used at Minnesota under coach Glen Mason, the former Gophers standout should find his niche in the Steelers' depth chart.

"I just hope he doesn't beat up on my (Cincinnati) Bengals too bad," Cupito joked.

But in the midst of a weekend where Spaeth is looking forward to a professional football career, it was also a time to reflect on the time spent at Minnesota.

After all, his hometown and family are less than 45 minutes away, and Spaeth said he often had 150 family and friends attending games at the Metrodome.

"My time at the 'U' was great," he said. "It's something I will never forget, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

It was a sentiment Spaeth made visible about the pride he took in staying close to home and being part of Gophers athletics.

"People ask what it would've been like if I would've chosen to go somewhere else," Spaeth said. "It just wouldn't have been the same."

New York for the draft.

"It was such a relief just finding out where I'm going," Spaeth said. "I'm going to a great organization - a class organization - and I couldn't be happier."

Spaeth's accolades, which include holding the school record for tight end receptions (109) and receiving yards (1,293), made him a viable candidate for Pittsburgh's offensive scheme.

Coupled with Spaeth's blocking ability that helped staple a dominant Gophers offensive line, his presence should bolster a Steelers offense that prides itself on hard-nosed football.

"He's a great blocking tight end," former Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito said. "They like to run the ball, but he can catch real well, which can help open up their passing game."

Cupito said he hadn't spoken to Spaeth since he was drafted, but expects good fortune and an immediate impact from his former teammate, who was one of his primary targets throughout the 2006 season.

"He won't be waiting around (to play)," Cupito said. "I know they've got another tight end there that's pretty good (Heath Miller), but (Spaeth) should go right in there and learn while making a quick impact."

Spaeth mentioned Miller when discussing the depth chart and said he's looking forward to the chance to learn from the third-year player out of Virginia.

"He's a great tight end," Spaeth said. "I'm looking forward to working with a guy like him."

Pittsburgh is two years removed from a Super Bowl Championship and coming off a season in which it missed the playoffs and had long-time coach Bill Cowher resign. Still, the Steelers show serious potential as a contender next season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coupled with wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward on offense, while the defense is stacked with enough talent to render a new-era version of the "Steel Curtain."

And with blocking schemes and pass routes that Spaeth said are similar to what he's used at Minnesota under coach Glen Mason, the former Gophers standout should find his niche in the Steelers' depth chart.

"I just hope he doesn't beat up on my (Cincinnati) Bengals too bad," Cupito joked.

But in the midst of a weekend where Spaeth is looking forward to a professional football career, it was also a time to reflect on the time spent at Minnesota.

After all, his hometown and family are less than 45 minutes away, and Spaeth said he often had 150 family and friends attending games at the Metrodome.

"My time at the 'U' was great," he said. "It's something I will never forget, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

It was a sentiment Spaeth made visible about the pride he took in staying close to home and being part of Gophers athletics.

"People ask what it would've been like if I would've chosen to go somewhere else," Spaeth said. "It just wouldn't have been the same."

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