LONGMONT — It's a strange feeling to awake one day to realize that the distant dream you harbored as a child has become a real possibility.
That's a feeling that few people get to experience. Silver Creek alumnus Austin Apodaca, however, can tell you all about it.
Like many young athletes, Apodaca spent his early years dreaming of playing in the National Football League. After middle school, high school and a college football career, the quarterback moved closer to making that dream a reality when he declared for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Apodaca may get selected during this year's NFL Draft on April 27-29. He may not. But one thing is for sure, the possibility of an NFL career is very real for the quarterback from Longmont.
"It has been my dream my whole life," Apodaca said. "Since I was 5 years old, the only thing I've wanted to do is play football in the NFL. You come out of high school and then transition to college and now I'm pursuing my dream. Preparing and talking to teams, the whole nine yards, the process has just been a blast so far. The biggest difference is that now I'm treating this as my job so everything that I do, I'm trying to be a professional."
Apodaca declared for the NFL Draft on Dec. 20, immediately following his senior season at the University of New Mexico. Injured after starting four games during his senior year, he returned to lead the Lobos to key wins against Nevada, Hawai'i and Utah State down their stretch run towards a share of the Mountain West's Mountain Division title.
During his senior year at Silver Creek in 2011, Apodaca threw for over 3,800 yards and completed 44 touchdowns passes while leading the Raptors to the Class 3A state title game. He went from there to Washington State, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Mesa Community College and then back to the Division-I ranks for his final two seasons of eligibility at New Mexico. Apodaca is living in Parker and training in Centennial at Landow Performance, where many of the Denver Broncos train.
Realistically, Apodaca knows he isn't a top draft prospect and will be looking to slide into the draft's later rounds. Having played in both a pass-heavy offense at Washington State and a run option-based offense at New Mexico gives the 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback a versatile resume but he has to compete with other players who were four-year collegiate starters.
"Bottom line, I want to play in the NFL," Apodaca said. "I'm open to anything. If I can sneak into a later round, that's great. If not, I'll look at free agency or try to make it into a rookie minicamp and win a spot. I know I can play in the NFL and I just want to make it into the league any way I can."
Apodaca, who will audition for NFL scouts at the New Mexico pro day on March 9, isn't the only player with high school roots in Longmont who is hoping to reach the pro level this year.
Longmont High alumni Justin Traxinger and Miles Bergner have also declared for the draft, hoping to join fellow Trojans alumnus Greg Biekert, who was drafted in 1993 and played for the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings.
A 6-foot-7, 320-pound lineman who was a multi-sport athlete at Longmont, Traxinger certainly meets the size requirement for an NFL lineman. This past season, his redshirt senior campaign, he was named to the All-RMAC First Team while playing for Colorado School of Mines.
A graduate of Longmont's 2012 class, Bergner is another in a lengthening line of talented kickers to have recently come through the Trojans program. At 6-1, 215, he made 77 percent of his field goal attempts (44 of 57) over his final three seasons at South Dakota, and accounted for 276 points in his four-year college career.
"It's awesome," Trojans head coach Doug Johnson said. "The biggest thing is their academic success. For Justin to fight through and graduate from Mines is an incredible accomplishment. Obviously, he's been stellar on the football field as well, like he was for us. We called him 'Little Justin' here at our place because our other tackle was Justin Hansen, who went on to play at CSU. We had to call Justin Hansen 'Short Justin' because Trax is 6-7.
"Miles was an incredible kicker for us and a really good leader. He not only was a great kicker but then he developed himself as a punter and wanted to take on that role. For him to go on to both kick and punt at South Dakota was great to see. He'll have a chance to compete at two different spots. I wouldn't put it past him to try to do both. He has also been back working out with us all summer and has been working with our guys, which is great."