Tanner Gentry was the nation’s most prolific deep threat last season. He could turn out to be a valuable deep cut for the Chicago Bears.
The former Wyoming receiver was signed by Chicago as an undrafted free agent Saturday, Gentry confirmed to the Star-Tribune.
“It was awesome,” he said of getting the call. “(I’m) Really thankful.”
Gentry was the 20th best prospect not drafted, according to Pro Football Focus. Also per Pro Football Focus, his 49 deep targets (20 yards or more) were the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year, as were his 22 deep receptions.
However, he was not selected in the NFL Draft, which wrapped up Saturday evening. Gentry had been projected as going anywhere from the fourth round to undrafted.
“I mean, I was pretty confident that I’d hear my name on Day Three at some point, from talking to my agent and things like that,” Gentry said. “But the draft is kind of crazy, and it didn’t work out that way. But I’m very fortunate to get an opportunity.”
Gentry said he and his agent Ken Sarnoff had spoken with a few teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, as the draft was ending.
“Me and my agent had a few teams in mind, and Chicago was one of them,” Gentry said. “I know my agent was talking to teams and trying to negotiate everything. We just decided to go with Chicago.”
Tennessee, New York and New Orleans called right after he signed with Chicago, Gentry said.
The Bears already have two former Cowboys on the roster, defensive back Chris Prosinski and defensive end Mitch Unrein. Gentry, who has never been to Chicago, didn’t play with either at Wyoming.
As a senior in 2016, Gentry had 72 catches for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns, figures that ranked fourth, first and tied for first in the Mountain West. He ranked 12th in the nation and sixth in Wyoming single-season history in receiving yards.
Gentry had seven 100-yard receiving performances, tied for the most in the conference. In a triple-overtime loss at UNLV, he had three receiving touchdowns, tied for the most by a Mountain West receiver in a single game in 2016. Gentry had 12 catches at Eastern Michigan, second most by a Mountain West receiver in a single game last season.
He finished his Wyoming career fifth in program history in receiving yards (2,815), eighth in receptions (180) and tied for fourth in touchdown receptions (20). Gentry ended his collegiate career with 33 consecutive games with a reception.
Of the 32 receivers were selected in the draft, just seven had more receiving yards than Gentry last season.
“It was (tough),” he said. “But at the end of the day, drafted or not, you’ve got to make the team come August, so I think that’s my motivation right now. I’m just going to keep working hard and keep that goal in mind. That’s what’s most important.”
It’s the latest in a list of arguable snubs for Gentry. He was named second-team all-Mountain West, despite having its most receiving yards, and he was not invited to the NFL Combine or a major post-collegiate all-star game.
“I’m very motivated, especially considering I didn’t get drafted,” Gentry said. “But either way, in the NFL, it’s an everyday thing. You’ve got to prove yourself every day. Guys lose jobs all the time and guys take jobs. I’m just going to keep having to prove myself, and I’m excited.”
“Those are my teammates and guys that I played with and loved,” Gentry said. “So it’s very cool to see them get drafted, and I wish them the best of luck.”
Along with Gentry, linebacker Lucas Wacha (Dallas) and tight end Jacob Hollister (New England) were picked up as undrafted free agents, and punter Ethan Wood was offered a tryout with Tennessee.
“I think it’s awesome,” Gentry said. “I think it’s finally some good national recognition for Wyoming. Normally you see Mountain West guys get drafted and it’s Boise or San Diego State. I think it’s cool that Wyoming’s kind of getting put on the map.
“We had a pretty successful year, and I know that will help with recruiting as well.”