Patience pays off for Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli as Denver Broncos select him in NFL draft

Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli (81), a Waubonsie Valley graduate, was taken in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. (Bradley Leeb / AP)

Mature beyond his years.

That describes Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli and it’s what the Denver Broncos were looking for in this year’s NFL draft. They found it Saturday when they selected Fumagalli, a Waubonsie Valley graduate, in the fifth round with the 156th overall pick.

Coming off a disappointing season, Denver (5-11) had 10 selections in the seven rounds of this year’s draft and nine of them were players who had completed their degrees.

“It’s a mature group,” Broncos general manager John Elway said. “There are a lot of seniors in it and that’s one thing we wanted to do. We learned last year, in a losing streak, you need that maturity to be mentally tough.”

Taking a shortcut to the pros may have been an option more than once for Fumagalli. But patience won out for the former walk-on.

Maybe father knew best.

“He thought about coming out early for the draft after the (2017) Cotton Bowl game (when he won the MVP award),” Doug Fumagalli said of his son.

It might have worked out. But Doug Fumagalli advised against it, believing it was wiser for Troy to play another college season and finish work on his bachelor’s in finance and investment banking.

Troy Fumagalli earned that degree in December and was a consensus second-team All-American after catching 46 passes for 547 yards and four touchdowns.

“No matter how the draft and football go, he’s set,” Doug Fumagalli said. “Wisconsin’s business school can be a challenge. It’s very selective and it’s tough to get in.”

Early in high school, some fathers of Fumagalli’s travel baseball teammates wondered why the big left-hander, now 6-foot-6, and 248 pounds, didn’t give up football.

“He could move the ball and could throw fairly fast,” Doug Fumagalli said. “He could have played baseball if he wanted. All I’d say to those dads was it was his decision and we’d support it.”

After Fumagalli visited Wisconsin, leaving football was out of the question.

Fumagalli had to wait into the fifth round before learning his draft fate early Saturday afternoon at his parents’ house along with family and friends.

“We had a lot of people over,” Doug Fumagalli said. “It wasn’t bad, kind of what we had expected because his agents had helped in that regard.”

Denver coach Vance Joseph and his staff coached one of the teams in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and that connection may have helped. The Broncos drafted three of their players from that game, including Fumagalli.

“To have a chance to work with those guys for a week in meetings and on the practice field was huge,” Joseph said. “You don’t draft guys blindly.”

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