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NFL Draft Prospect Danny Pinter: 'I Grew Up A Bears Fan, So Getting Drafted By Them Would Be Awesome'

(CBS Chicago)- The NFL Draft is just about a month away. While it won't have all of the usual pageantry we've grown accustomed to in recent years, prospects will still get to hear their names called by commissioner Roger Goodell as they find out where they will begin their NFL careers.

One of those prospects hoping to hear his name called the weekend of April 23rd-25th is Ball State offensive lineman Danny Pinter. A unique prospect, Pinter transitioned to playing tackle two years ago after beginning his career at Ball State as a tight end. In the process of transitioning, he put on 50 pounds over one offseason.

The South Bend, Indiana native shined at the NFL Combine, posting the second-fastest 40 time among lineman (4.91 seconds) to go with a top-15 broad jump (110 inches), and a top-three finish in the 20-yard shuttle drill (4.62 seconds). Those athletic feats have caught the eyes of scouts as the league ramps up its preparations. We took time to sit down with Danny and get his story, from the beginning, and Bears fans will be happy to know, he's one of you. The following is his story in his words with light editing.

I grew up a Bears fan, so being drafted by them would be awesome. But, at the same time, whatever opportunity I get, that is what I'm looking for, the opportunity.

My football journey started like most kids', playing football in the backyard with my buddies going back as far as I can remember. You could say I fell in love with it the first time we got a game together in the backyard, and I just knew as soon as I could start playing organized football, I would. That chance came in fifth grade, when I could begin playing for the school team. I haven't looked back since.

Central Connecticut State v Ball State
Malik Dunner #4 of the Ball State Cardinals celebrates with offensive lineman Danny Pinter #75. Credit: Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Still, in the beginning, I was playing football for the love of it. It wasn't until around my junior year of high school that I made it my goal to take football to the next level. Heading into that offseason before my senior year, I put a lot of time into training and getting stronger with the goal of playing in college. At the same time, I was saving up all of the money that I could in order to go to every possible camp that I could to get noticed.

It took awhile, until basically the last day before signing day to get an offer from a D-I school. Ball State was the only Division I program to offer me, and that definitely put a chip on my shoulder to prove myself, though honestly, one has always kind of been there.

Once I got to college, I red-shirted my freshman year before playing as a tight end in my second and third year. When I got injured towards the end of that redshirt sophomore year season, I had to have surgery. That was when my coaches first approached me about making the switch to offensive line.

I embraced the challenge, and the first thing I did is went to our strength coach, Ben Armer, who serves as our nutrition guy as well. I told him that I wanted to add the weight the right way, and he already had a meal plan ready for me. It was a lot of eating and staying consistent to that plan, which called for about 5,100 calories a day. There was a lot of eggs, chicken, rice, all of that type of stuff. But it was broken down into different categories, so you have to hit vegetables fruit all of that. He had it all broken down for me, so I am super thankful to my strength coach for that.

The first 20 pounds was easier because I am a bigger dude naturally, but after that first 20, the meal plan started to kick in. There [were] days when it was very forced, and I just had to sit down and know that it was something I had to do for the bigger picture. By the time the season rolled around I felt pretty ingrained in terms of the weight, it was just a matter of figuring out getting more comfortable playing offensive line.

Ball State v Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Khalid Kareem #53 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against Danny Pinter #75 of the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Ball State 24-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

That process, was a bit more complicated. While some skills I had from being a tight end were able to translate, there was a lot of learning through trial and error in spring ball that year. It was frustrating at times, but I spent a lot of time in offensive line coach Collin Johnson's office. He kept reminding me to be patient, saying, 'You're trying to be an all-conference player, and you're in your second day of learning offensive line.' That helped keep me in the right mindset of just continuing to work.

That first season, as a redshirt junior, I was learning something new every week either on the field or in the film room. It was a huge season for me because I just felt myself every week taking bigger and bigger steps to becoming a better player.

Then, in my senior year, things really came together. (Editor's note: Pinter was named first team All-MAC and a finalist for the Senior Class Award). Over that two-year transition, there was a lot of time and effort put in, so to be considered as a finalist for the Senior Class Award was rewarding. But, at the end of the day, the biggest thing that I wanted for us our senior year was to win, and we fell a little bit short on that, by just a couple of points to be honest. We could have been in the MAC Championship. That part was certainly the most frustrating. This past season we had was the best I had in five years there. We had a couple of close losses. But I think the team is in a great position moving forward. So just to have a role in that, the betterment of the team moving forward, was pretty rewarding.

Now, going through the draft process, it's constantly busy, and there is always something new that you have to learn how to approach. But, I have just tried to take it a day at a time. It started with training for the Combine at Exos in Phoenix, where they got me feeling very confident heading into the Combine in the kind of times I could post.

Putting on the performance I did at the Combine was great to show that I belonged there with those other top guys. But, also, it was good to get those track & field numbers out of the way so that I could go back to training football and honing in on my techniques.

The biggest thing that I'm working on as I get ready for the NFL level is my versatility. Some teams like me as a center, some as a guard, and I think I still go out there and play as a tackle. So I am working on learning the nuances of each position so that I can prove I can play all five positions across the line.

The biggest thing I hold myself on is my work ethic, and I think that translates to my game. I love football. I like to be a physical player ,but I think the biggest thing is I just want to be the hardest-working guy there.

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