Disgusting Shake Fuels D-III Prospect’s Unlikely Draft Story

Bill Huber

INDIANAPOLIS – Ben Bartch put a new spin on the old cliché of “no pain, no gain.”

At Division III Saint John’s in Collegeville, Minn., Bartch was a backup tight end for his first two seasons. Two years later, he was an All-American offensive tackle who was playing in the prestigious Senior Bowl and destined to be a midround draft pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

How did he pack on the pounds necessary to go from 250-pound tight end to 305-pound draft prospect?

No pain, no weight gain. Through online research, he came up with a gnarly concoction of “clean and healthy ingredients” to pack on good weight.

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“Essentially, the summer after my sophomore year, I was asked to switch to the offensive line,” Bartch said at the Scouting Combine on Wednesday. “I would get up at 5 a.m. and would have to go work as a strength coach at a local high school. In order to get my breakfast in — I didn’t have time to eat the full carbohydrates and proteins I needed. My friend had a NutriBullet, so I would scramble seven eggs, a big tub of cottage cheese, quick grits, then peanut butter and banana and Gatorade. I would throw it all in and plug my nose. I’d gag sometimes, but that’s what you have to do.”

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Disgusting but effective. His weight went from 250 pounds to 275 pounds, and then from 275 to 305. The payoff was immediate, though. As a 275-pound left tackle, Bartch broke into the starting lineup as a junior. Scouts quickly took note.

“I grew up obviously idolizing the NFL and always wanting to play in it as a young boy,” Bartch said. “But I think it kind of became surreal and actualized it kind of my junior year, the beginning of when scouts started coming in a little more. I kind of understood this is something I’m going to devote a lot of my time to and I’m really excited about it.”

The Senior Bowl – the prestigious collegiate all-star game featuring many of the nation’s top prospects – solidified his draft status. It’s one thing to block someone from the MIAC. It’s quite another to go up against someone from the SEC. If he surprised others by his performance in Mobile, Ala., he didn’t surprise himself.

“Michael Jordan said you have to expect things of yourself before you do them,” Bartch said. “I expected of myself that I was going to perform well, whether or not other people thought I was some small-school scrub who was going to get destroyed. So I think going down there, you get that first rep out of your system and you just relax a little bit. Like, ‘Look we’re just playing football. We’re having fun.’ I think it was a great experience and really big for me.”

Just eight Saint John’s players have been drafted, and none since offensive lineman Kurt Wachtler in the 15th round of 1974. The last Johnnies player to appear in a regular-season NFL game was running back Rick Bell, who played for the Vikings in 1983.

In 2015, Hobart’s Ali Marpet was drafted with the 61st overall selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s the earliest a Division III player has been drafted. Bartch might not go that quickly but there’s little doubt he will be drafted.

“I’m very humbled about it,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here, to be honest. If I can bring some pride and some honor back to Saint John’s and represent them well, I’m all for it.”

Bartch sustained a minor knee injury at the Senior Bowl and will not be going through drills at the Combine. Instead, he will work out at Minnesota’s pro day on March 25.

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