Anybody who knows that Zach Gentry is a football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers probably knows that he is a former college quarterback. Or at least, he was recruited to Michigan to play quarterback, only to be converted to tight end when he got there.
And when the Steelers drafted him, they liked his receiving abilities first and foremost, but they also liked his frame and the potential to develop him into a well-rounded tight end. And when they selected him in the fifth round in 2019, they were prepared to take on a project.
That project took two full seasons before it bore much fruit, but Gentry emerged as a key contributor on offense last season as their primary blocking tight end, something that is a bit hard to fathom for the guy who decided to sign up at Michigan to sling the ball around.
“In hindsight, it does” seem weird that he’s now primarily a blocking tight end, looking back on the past seven or eight years, he told James Yodice for the Albuquerque Journal. “I’m not hardwired to look back at stuff like that, but when I do, and I reminisce, never in a million years would I have thought that I’d be playing in the NFL as primarily a blocking tight end”.
Gentry was a star quarterback prospect at Eldorado high school in Albuquerque when he was taking recruiting trips for college to places like Michigan, which is of course where he decided to go. But head coach Jim Harbaugh convinced him to move to tight end once he got there.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’8” and tips the scales north of 250 pounds. He came in weighing 265 pounds, but he told reporters this offseason that he slimmed down a bit despite adding muscle. He also said that he wanted to get more involved as a receiver.
During his senior season at Michigan, Gentry caught 32 passes for 514 yards and two touchdowns. He had 17 catches for 303 yards and two scores the year before that, in his only two seasons of getting meaningful work.
With Pat Freiermuth, last year’s second-round draft pick, standing in front of him, it’s hard to say how many targets the Steelers will manage to find for him in the passing game this year, but he’ll no doubt find it hard to complain about seeing his good friend be rewarded with those opportunities.
Gentry is actually now entering the final season of his rookie contract, meaning that he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023. He showed last year that he can be a valuable tight end, and they are banking on him being a strong number two at the position this year. Which kind of makes you wonder if they won’t try to get him extended during training camp.