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Gonzaga Prep grad, California standout linebacker Evan Weaver drafted by Arizona in sixth round of NFL draft

UPDATED: Sat., April 25, 2020

California  linebacker Evan Weaver (89) reacts after the Golden Bears’ interception against Washington State during the first half Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
California linebacker Evan Weaver (89) reacts after the Golden Bears’ interception against Washington State during the first half Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Former California linebacker and Gonzaga Prep graduate Evan Weaver is headed to the Arizona Cardinals.

Weaver was selected in the sixth round of Saturday’s NFL draft with the 202nd overall pick.

The 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-American led the nation in tackles as a junior (159) and senior (182), setting a conference record this past season.

Several NFL scouts reportedly liked Weaver’s toughness, nose for the football, and college resume, but were concerned about his limited athleticism and coverage ability, resulting in the late-round pick.

He’s ready to prove why he belongs in the league.

“(I’ve been) underestimated my whole life, people overlooking me my whole life,” he told the organization’s website, “Coming from a small town in Washington, playing football, you don’t really get looked at by a lot of colleges. Thankfully, Cal picked me up, and now I got picked up by the Cardinals. I’m ready to roll and ready to prove people wrong.”

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury likes Weaver’s fiery demeanor.

“When you meet him at the Senior Bowl, he walks in that room and he’s on fire. He’s ready to hit people in that room,” Kingsbury said. “That’s how he wakes up and that’s how he goes to sleep. That’s how you want them. He’s definitely going to come in with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s his edge out there on the football field.”

Weaver (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) led G-Prep to a State 4A title in 2015 and was the Washington Defensive Player of the Year.

He is the first Spokane-area native drafted since former Washington State and University High offensive lineman Joe Dahl was selected by the Detroit Lions in 2016.

“I hit people as hard as I possibly can,” Weaver said. “(I like) really taking the soul out of people. Once you get in the third, fourth quarter, they don’t want to play any more, because they just don’t want to hang with you.”

Other area draft picks in recent years include former Eastern Washington and Shadle Park offensive lineman Jake Rodgers (seventh round, 2015) to the Atlanta Falcons; former Washington and G-Prep running back Bishop Sankey (second round, 2014) to the Tennessee Titans; and former Utah State and Central Valley cornerback Will Davis (third round, 2013) to the Miami Dolphins.

Idaho’s Cotton signs with Chargers

For the first time since 2000, nobody from the Big Sky Conference was drafted.

Of the 255 total draft picks this weekend, six came from the Football Championship Subdivision level and two from NCAA Division II, low numbers believed to be the result of a lack of pro days across the country due to the novel coronavirus.

But several small-school products signed undrafted free-agent contracts Saturday night, including former Idaho receiver Jeff Cotton.

Cotton, an All-American after hauling in 87 passes for 1,137 yards in 2019, agreed to a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity and can’t wait to prove myself!” Cotton said in a text message. “I can’t thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates enough who made it all possible.

“Now it’s time to turn it up a whole nother level!”

Eastern Washington did not have any of its former players sign undrafted free-agent contracts as of Saturday night. If no ex-Eagle is offered an NFL free-agent contract, it would be the first time since the 2009 draft.

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