Before entering the 2020 NFL Draft, all Ryan Becker wanted was a chance.
The 2016 Marble Falls High School graduate and former Southern Methodist University tight end now has it. He signed a contract with the Arizona Cardinals in May as an undrafted free agent.
“It definitely feels awesome,” he said. “We got the call, and it was pretty cool. I think I’m a pretty good player. It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Reflecting on how he felt on the final day of the draft not hearing his name called, Becker talked about several of his SMU teammates who he thought were talented but didn’t get an opportunity to play at the next level.
He also recalled watching the 2018 draft with former SMU receiver and teammate Trey Quinn and the emotions that came with it, especially on the last day. Quinn was picked last at No. 256 by the Washington Redskins.
Becker went through all of those same emotions during the 2020 draft.
“You talk about exciting, but it’s also stressful,” he said. “And it’s a lot more stressful when it’s your own (future). You’re nervous because it’s all out of your hands. At that point, you’re just walking around. It’s exciting, but at the same point, I was confident I was going to get a shot.”
Becker’s agent, Drew Pittman, spoke to NFL franchises that inquired about the player and determined which ones had the most interest.
The two decided that the Cardinals’ system was optimal for Becker, who got along well with tight end coach Steve Heiden.
“What they’re building fit me the best, which is a good feeling,” Becker said. “(Heiden) was cool. When I talked to him, you get a feel. You have to trust you’re getting in the right situation. I had the best feeling (with Arizona). You have to go with it.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals have a couple of Lone Star State products: head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a New Braunfels native and former Texas Tech University quarterback and head coach; and quarterback Kyler Murray, who graduated from Allen High School and won the 2018 Heisman Trophy while playing for the University of Oklahoma.
“There’s definitely a lot of Texas ties,” Becker said. “There are some offensive freaks. They’re going to be an up-and-coming team. Everybody in Texas knows who Kyler Murray is.”
He noted the Cardinals began the 2019 season with a lot of spread offensive concepts and utilized more tight ends, especially as blockers. Becker was a blocking tight end in college.
Maxx Williams is the Cardinals’ starting tight end. He signed a two-year extension in the middle of the 2019 season. On June 1, the team announced the signing of tight end Dylan Cantrell, who spent two years with the Los Angeles Chargers and four years at Texas Tech playing for Kingsbury.
Becker is still in Texas awaiting word from the Cardinals on when he can report for training. In the meantime, he has daily virtual meetings with the other tight ends and studies the Cardinals’ playbook.
After signing with Arizona, Becker stayed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to train at Athletic Apex, a facility used by Kansas City Chief and Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes as well as former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Seeing those players working out and staying in shape gave Becker a sense of what it’s like to prepare with NFL teammates.
“You’re a professional now,” he said.
The Cardinals are scheduled to kick off the 2020 season against the San Francisco 49ers on September 13.