ALLENDALE, Mich. (May 9, 2014) — While the NFL Draft continues today with the second and third rounds, Matt Armstrong will be watching as a fan. Tomorrow during rounds four through seven, Armstrong plans to get as far away from a television as possible.
“I got to find something to do,” Armstrong says. “I can’t watch. It will be too nerve-racking.”
The former Grand Valley State lineman is expected to either get drafted in the later rounds or signed as a free agent soon after the NFL Draft concludes. It’s an experience that Armstrong plans to enjoy regardless of what happens.
“It’s been great, you know,” says Armstrong. “Pretty much you’re rewarded by your hard work through the whole process.”
That process began right after he finished an incredible career at GVSU. Armstrong earned All-GLIAC honors in all four years as an offensive lineman for the Lakers, including being named to the first-team in three of them. He won the 2013 Rimington Award as the nation’s top center in Division II football.
He then underwent surgery to clean up some issues with his ankle and shoulder, before heading to Gulf Breeze, Florida to work out at the EXOS training facility. EXOS is the same training facility that Jadeveon Clowney used before being selected as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
At first the focus was getting back healthy,” Armstrong said. ” I was coming off the two surgeries, so first we were just trying to get back. Then we got back a little sooner than expected. So it was like, let’s give it a shot at the combine.”
Armstrong became the first GSVU Laker ever to be invited to the NFL Combine, but he wasn’t able to do much. On his first drill, the 40-yard dash, Armstrong pulled a quad muscle that shut him down from the rest of the activities. He did conduct formal interviews with two teams at the combine and spoke informally with every team in Indianapolis.
Then in April, Armstrong suffered another pulled muscle during the GVSU Pro-Day. Once again, it occurred during the 40-yard dash, but this time it was the hamstring. On each occasion, Armstrong was able to rely on his fiancee’ Sam Lockhart. Lockhart is no stranger to athletics, winning five different individual NCAA Division 2 Track and Field National Titles.
“Even in rough times like with the pulled muscles at the combine and the pro day, she’s just always positive,” said Armstrong. “Always there for me and helping me get through this. She understands what it is to be a high-level athlete and knows that there are setbacks. Even sometimes when I get kind of irritated with the whole situation, she’s there to remind me that we’ve got to stay positive and keep moving forward.”
Armstrong has also been able to use former GVSU players for guidance, including former teammate Cameron Bradfield. Armstrong played with Bradfield from 2008-2010, before Bradfield signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
Bradfield is now a starting offensive lineman for the Jaguars, and has reminded Armstrong to enjoy the entire draft experience regardless of what happens. He’s also reminded Armstrong that to be successful in the NFL doesn’t require being drafted. It actually can be a blessing to go undrafted.
“If you get drafted late rounds, you don’t get to choose where you go,” Armstrong says of the advice Bradfield gave him about the draft.” But, if you go undrafted, you can sit back, look at your situation and decide what’s the best fit for you. I mean obviously everybody wants to get drafted and hear their name called on TV. I would say that I want to get drafted, but whatever happens happens and you just got to live with it.”
The NFL Draft concludes on Saturday, May 10. Whether he’s drafted or signed as a free agent, Armstrong says he just wants a chance to prove he can play in the best football league in the world.