Richardson, Santoso and Wozniak sign as undrafted free agents, but no Gophers picked in NFL draft

No Gophers players were drafted for the first time since 2013.

Gophers defensive lineman Steven Richardson navigates the field at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 8, 2016.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Gophers defensive lineman Steven Richardson navigates the field at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 8, 2016.

by Jack Warrick

For the first time since 2013, the Gophers had no players picked in the NFL draft.

Despite not being drafted, two Minnesota players have already signed deals with NFL teams. Defensive lineman Steven Richardson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday while punter Ryan Santoso signed with the Detroit Lions on the same day. Tight end Nate Wozniak signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent Sunday.

“It’s still pretty surreal right now,” Richardson said Saturday. “That was pretty much the top team, when I [was] discussing with my agent like what’s the best fit. … It ended up working out, so I’m really happy about the results right now.”

Richardson finished his Gophers career with 103 tackles and 12.5 sacks, playing in 48 games. Santoso averaged 41.8 yards per punt with 144 punts in his career at Minnesota. He averaged 61.8 yards per kickoff attempt in three years as the starting kicker.

Between 2014-17, the Gophers had nine players selected in the NFL draft. Former Gophers defensive back Jalen Myrick —  the lone Minnesota player taken last year — heard his name called as the 222nd overall pick in the seventh round. In 2016, the Kansas City Chiefs picked defensive back Eric Murray and the Atlanta Falcons selected linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, both in the fourth round. 

The 2015 season had four Gophers draft picks and the 2014 season had two. No Gophers players were selected from 2011-13. Besides Richardson and Santoso, nine other Minnesota athletes competed in the school’s pro day on March 28. 

Former Gophers linebacker Jonathan Celestin was one of the players who competed in the Gophers’ pro day. Celestin did not get drafted, but he was invited to the Houston Texans’ mini camp Saturday.

“Watch me run with this chance,” Celestin tweeted Saturday.

Former Gophers players Adekunle Ayinde, Kobe McCrary and Merrick Jackson all got invited to mini camp with the Minnesota Vikings. Offensive lineman Garrison Wright was invited to the Cleveland Browns’ camp. 

“Now, it’s literally about a job, so you can’t have somebody work harder than you,” Richardson said. “You can’t have those bad days, or those days where you’re not feeling it, you always have to feel it. You got to go all the time.”