Two years ago when the coaching staff at UMaine asked Drew Belcher to switch from quarterback to tight end, the football future of the Reading High Class of 2014 graduate seemed in doubt.
But Belcher blossomed in his new role, and his versatility, athleticism, and work ethic paid off with a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Belcher will spend the next few days at home before reporting to Arizona for a rookie minicamp May 10-12.
“The past couple days a lot of people have reached out. It’s really cool to see, and hear from my high school coaches and friends from home,” he said. “It was always goal of mine since I was younger. I took an unconventional path with the transition to tight end, but the coaches told me I had all traits and tools. Obviously things have worked out so far.”
UMaine finished the regular season 8-3, including a 7-1 first-place record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) that clinched Maine its first CAA title since 2013. Maine earned a No. 7 seed in the 24-team FCS tournament and a first-round bye, then advanced to the FCS semifinals with wins over Jacksonville State and Weber State.
UMaine lost to Eastern Washington on Dec. 15, ending their season and Belcher’s collegiate career. He finished the season with 46 catches for 357 yards and a touchdown.
Belcher, 23, took a few days off after the season but jumped right back into training at Athletic Evolution in Woburn. Belcher signed with an agent in January, then participated at a Pro Day on March 8 in Orono in front of scouts from 12 NFL teams.
Belcher had a great day, running a 7.05 in a three-cone drill, a 4.22 20-yard shuttle, and 4.68 40-yard dash. He also surprised himself by benching 225 pounds for 16 reps. He participated in a second Pro Day at Boston College before scouts from all 32 NFL teams.
“The bench press was an initial concern with a quarterback background, but that took away some concerns I would not be strong enough upper-body wise,” he said. “I performed well, ran well, and afterwards I talked to Arizona. They watched my films, liked me, and wanted me out there.”
Belcher had hoped he might be selected in the NFL draft. But when the last day of the draft came and went he wasn’t too disappointed. Arizona’s spread offense was the best possible fit for Belcher, who, while big at 6-3 and 250 pounds, is not in the mold of an in-line blocking tight end.
“I thought there was a shot, but stuff comes up, I ended up going undrafted,” he said. “But I’ve got an opportunity in a good place. One positive of being an undrafted free agent, you can pick your situation. I had a choice but I picked Arizona because the offense fits me. Schematically it works for me and it’s my best shot to make a team or a practice squad.”
Belcher will now report to rookie mini-camp along with Arizona’s draftees and undrafted free agents. After that he’ll report to organized team activities (OTAs) with the veterans and rookies in mid-May.
In his RMHS playing days Belcher was a three-time Middlesex Liberty All-Star, a two-time Daily Times Chronicle Offensive Football Player of the Year, and in his junior season was named Middlesex League Liberty Division MVP and an All-Scholastic. He finished his Reading High career with 44 career touchdown passes, a school record.
As a junior Belcher led the Rockets to a perfect 13-0 season and an EMass Div. 2 Super Bowl championship. His 21 TD passes that season established a new single-season RMHS record. He also rushed for 2,418 career yards and scored 254 career points, second all-time in school history.