The most feel-good stories of NFL drafts are usually the ones in which players defy all odds to make it to the next level. While recruiting analysis has improved dramatically over the years, coaches and recruiting experts still miss diamonds in the rough. The latest example is offensive lineman Cody Mauch, a former North Dakota State University walk-on who was just picked in the second round of the NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Below is a screenshot of the 247Sports recruiting page for Mauch from 2017. He doesn’t have any prospect stars. He didn’t have any college offers (even from NDSU, he enrolled but wasn’t offered by the football program). He doesn’t even have a headshot on the site.
His hometown of Mantador, according to MaxPreps, has a population of only 69 people.
Without any offers, Mauch walked on to the North Dakota State team as a tight end in 2017, and created a new profile from there. He beefed up from 220 pounds to more than 300 as he shifted to the offensive line, started 39 straight games over his final three seasons, and was drafted by the Buccaneers with the No. 48 pick of the 2023 NFL draft. The Bucs traded up two spots to ensure they could grab him.
Where did Mauch come from? How did he get missed by everybody?
If there was an athletic activity while he was growing up, Mauch was probably present. The NDSU website says he played tight end, quarterback and defensive end at Hankinson High School and was a two-time all-region and all-state selection. He set a school record of 13 receiving touchdowns in the 2016 championship season.
He was also a basketball all-conference and all-region player. According to the Buccaneers, his two front teeth were knocked out during a seventh-grade basketball game and he does not plan to replace them until his football career is complete.
Mauch also played baseball and was a state qualifier in track, according to the NDSU bio.
Buccaneers Vice President of Player Personnel John Spytek said that while interviewing prospects, they ask who is the best player they faced in college.
“The amount of D-Linemen who brought up Cody Mauch from the Senior Bowl after not knowing anything about him was astounding, and is something we always pay attention to,” he said, per the Buccaneers website. “They think about it for a minute and they put some thought into it and they say, ‘That lineman from North Dakota State, he was really good. He was hard. He made me work.'”
After years of hard work, Mauch became one of the best stories of grit and determination in this 2023 NFL draft. He’ll bring that same mold to the Buccaneers as he mans the offensive line.