Having sat through three days of the NFL Draft waiting to hear his name called in New York without the payoff, Zach Bauman found himself with an NFL contract while waiting to hear his name called in Flagstaff.
After going unselected following the seven-round draft, Bauman signed as an undrafted free agent with his hometown Arizona Cardinals.
Bauman said he found out right before graduation where he would be going next and added that how close it is to home gave him added comfort, with no need to pack up and move helping him focus on making the team.
After attending Hamilton High School in Chandler and spending the past four years at Northern Arizona, Bauman now finished up his next step of playing within Arizona after the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp this past weekend.
Along with UNLV’s Tim Cornett, the two are looking to fight their way onto a roster that may end up including only four players at the position.
Second-year runners Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, along with free-agent signee Jonathan Dwyer, essentially have the top three spots locked up.
That leaves Bauman and Cornett fighting with Robert Hughes, who signed with the Cardinals late last season, for the final spot. Head coach Bruce Arians has said whoever takes the fourth running back spot must be well-rounded and capable of playing special teams, something Bauman hasn’t done since his freshman year of high school.
Bauman said that while it has been awhile since he last played them, he feels his skills can translate over pretty easily, citing it comes down to giving a full effort and football instincts.
As for the relationship with Cornett, who lost to NAU when at UNLV in 2012, Bauman said the two have worked together in order to adjust to the NFL lifestyle as quickly as possible. He added that there is no need to be enemies with each other, even while they both understand they are most likely fighting each other to make the team.
So far, the offensive transition has not been much trouble according to Bauman.
“I have played in a spread offense before, so it is just trying to find similarities,” he said.
The spread offense the Cardinals run is similar enough to Northern Arizona’s for Bauman to be comfortable within it and use past experiences going forward.
As for being one of the youngest players currently on the roster, Bauman said he quickly became comfortable with his surroundings thanks to past experience, having been among the youngest players at NAU during his career. Additionally, with the Cardinals having held training camp in Flagstaff during part of his NAU career, Bauman had been around the team and some of the players before joining the roster.
Having had the chance to train alongside them at times helped in gaining comfort around everyone, though he admitted that he stands and watches some of his teammates while at practice.
The Cardinals continue voluntary offseason training for veterans and rookies through Thursday, before they take place again from June 2 to 5. A mandatory minicamp for veterans and rookies takes place from June 10 to 12.