Dissly looks to be the fourth UW tight end bound for the NFL over the past five years — and 19th in program history.

Share story

The Washington Huskies have a rich history of producing NFL tight ends. In all, the program has sent 18 tight ends to the NFL over the past 50 years — including first-round draft picks Dave Williams (1967), Mark Bruener (1995) and Jerramy Stevens (2002) — and Will Dissly is on track to be the 19th this year.

Dissly was never supposed to carry on that tradition. Not initially, anyway. In high school, he was a two-star defensive lineman from Bozeman, Mont., who was all set to attend Boise State. He had no Power Five scholarship offers until Chris Petersen asked Dissly to follow him to Seattle before the 2014 season.

“When Coach Petersen left Boise, I was definitely nervous. I didn’t know if they would take a kid from Montana to go play Pac-12 football,” Dissly said. “… Recruiters go to California and they can look at three or four guys that can potentially be a Pac-12 player. They don’t really like to go to Montana for one guy who could potentially be a player, so I was definitely under recruited and I think that put a chip on my shoulder to work hard every day and go earn my scholarship every day.”

Dissly says he still has much to prove at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. He believes he’s the only prospect from Montana who received a combine invitation, and he’s one of seven Huskies scheduled to attend the event in Indianapolis.

The Huskies have more high-profile prospects this year, to be sure. Defensive lineman Vita Vea, a projected top-15 pick, is one of the most intriguing prospects at the combine, and UW receiver Dante Pettis will try to solidify himself as a second-round selection with a fast 40-yard time this week.

Linebacker Azeem Victor, coming off a season-ending suspension in November, will have many questions to answer about his on-the-field play and his off-the-field issues. Linebacker Keishawn Bierria, center Coleman Shelton and running back Lavon Coleman — all projected late-round picks — will try to boost their stock this week too.

Dissly acknowledged he was a bit surprised when he received a combine invitation. As a 6-foot-4, 267-pound senior, he had modest receiving numbers last fall: 21 catches, 289 yards, two touchdowns. He’s better known for his play as a blocking tight end — hardly a role that attracts much fanfare, but one he did well enough that scouts have taken notice.

One West Coast NFL scout told The Seattle Times this week that Dissly could go as high as the fifth round in April’s draft if he shows adequate speed during his combine workout Friday. In the buildup to the combine, Dissly has been working with a speed trainer in Orlando, Fla.

“I mean, I’ve really only been playing tight end for two years, so my name wasn’t really on a whole lot of radars,” Dissly said. “But when you have guys like Vita and Dante (on your team), scouts are going to come and watch your tape once or twice.

“I just love playing the game and love doing the best I can. I’ve been fortunate to get to this point, and getting that combine invite is huge. I think I’m the only guy from Montana, so I’m just going to go represent who I am and where I come from and make the purple and gold proud.”

Dissly looks to be the fourth UW tight end bound for the NFL over the past five years. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was a second-round pick in 2013, and Joshua Perkins (2016) and Darrell Daniels (2017) made NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.

Washington also produced a strong crop of tight ends in the 1990s, with Aaron Pierce (third round, 1993), Bruener (first round, 1995), Eric Bjornson (fifth round, 1995), Ernie Conwell (second round, 1996), Cam Cleeland (second round, 1998), Jeremy Brigham (fifth round, 1998) and Reggie Davis (undrafted, 1999) all playing in the NFL.

Dissly said the Huskies’ tight-end room is still brimming with talent, predicting that senior Drew Sample and sophomore Hunter Bryant will both have NFL opportunities too.

“I’m excited to see what those guys can do,” he said.