Panasiuk, Rutter ready to challenge for NFL roster spots

  • Lake Park graduate Mike Panasiuk, who played at Michigan State, has signed a free-agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

    Lake Park graduate Mike Panasiuk, who played at Michigan State, has signed a free-agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics

  • Quarterback Broc Rutter, a Neuqua Valley graduate who led North Central to the NCAA Division III national championship, has signed a free-agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

    Quarterback Broc Rutter, a Neuqua Valley graduate who led North Central to the NCAA Division III national championship, has signed a free-agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Courtesy of Steve Woltmann/North Central College

 
 
Updated 4/29/2020 3:20 PM

The lumberjack beard, the man-mountain frame, the attitude, the tattoo on his huge left arm.

It seems Mike Panasiuk was built to be a Las Vegas Raider.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Minutes after the 2020 NFL Draft concluded on Saturday the defensive tackle from Michigan State and Lake Park signed a free-agent contract with the notoriously gritty franchise.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Panasiuk obviously is too young to have seen those baaaad old Raiders, but he's heard plenty.

"They mentioned the old days, stuff like that," he said from his home in Roselle. "But I'm a tough football player so that's what I'm going to bring to the team."

As a free agent signee on Saturday, Panasiuk joined San Francisco-bound Broc Rutter, the Gagliardi Trophy-winning quarterback from North Central College and Neuqua Valley.

Rutter, the 49ers' second Chicago-area quarterback along with Super Bowl LIV starter Jimmy Garoppalo from Rolling Meadows High School, set numerous program, conference and even national records while leading North Central to its first Division III national championship in football last fall.

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Sports information director Clark Teuscher said the last Cardinal to sign an NFL contract was undrafted free agent Tim Ehlebracht with the Bears in 1981. In 2012 Kyle Fiedorowicz earned a Saints minicamp invitation but did not make the team.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Rutter set a new Division III record for career passing yards with 14,265 after throwing for 4,591 yards and 56 touchdowns for the Cardinals in 2019, both program records. He completed 71 percent of his passes.

"Broc has a commodity that is not easy to come by, he's insanely accurate," said North Central College coach Jeff Thorne. "You've got guys there who throw the ball 80 yards, you've got guys who can throw it through a wall. A lot of them can do that but they can't put the ball where it needs to be put. His calling card is his accuracy."

Thorne said the 49ers had been following Rutter for more than a year. They found a student of the game, an extremely quick play processor and a stellar person.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He's as humble as the day is long and he's just the kind of guy people like to be around," Thorne said.

His high school coach agreed.

"I think he's got a good shot," said Neuqua Valley's Bill Ellinghaus. "I think San Francisco will be surprised with what they're getting in him as a young man and as a football player. Broc's humility on and off the field is really one of the things that might separate him from a lot of other people."

Panasiuk would like to make it his job to separate the football from other people for the Jon Gruden-led Raiders.

At nose tackle, last season the three-year Michigan State starter had career-highs of 36 tackles and 9 tackles for loss.

Winner of the Spartans' award for top defensive lineman, Panasiuk scored on a 14-yard interception return in the Pinstripe Bowl against Wake Forest, off a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by his brother, Jacub, an incoming senior defensive end.

Not that interceptions are Mike Panasiuk's thing.

"They run a four-man defensive line so I'll be right there up front causing chaos up the middle," he said.

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