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2023 NFL Draft interview: North Dakota State OL Cody Mauch

WCG’s Lead Draft Analyst spoke with arguably the top small-school prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 North Dakota State at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

North Dakota State offensive lineman Cody Mauch was an absolute force at the FCS level.

Starting off his collegiate career as a tight end for the Bison, Mauch became a three-year starter who was an absolute force at left tackle. Over the course of his collegiate career, he was a three-time FCS champion, a two-time first-team All-MVFC, and a two-time All-American, having made it to the first team in 2022 and the second team in 2021.

Now, Mauch has his eyes towards the 2023 NFL Draft, where many view him as not just the best small-school offensive line prospect, but arguably the top small-school prospect, period. He has both Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine invitations to his name, where he’ll get the chance to prove to teams that he’s worthy of significant investment.

I had the chance to speak with Mauch about what he wants out of the Senior Bowl, his favorite collegiate memory, his transition from tight end to offensive tackle, and more.

JI: Congratulations on being invited to the Senior Bowl. What are you looking forward to the most about being down in Mobile?

CM: I think the biggest thing is just how much competition is gonna be there. It’s a great chance to go and compete against some of the best guys in the country. And then with that, just [starting] the interview process with teams, get that process going. I’m looking forward to it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 North Dakota State at Arizona Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

JI: A lot of FCS, Division II and Division III players have seen their stock rise by playing well at the Senior Bowl. What are you looking to prove once you get on the field?

CM: I think the biggest thing is just that I can actually play ball. To me, football’s football, whatever level you’re at. If you can play, you can play, and honestly, [I’m] just going to prove that that, not only I belong, but that football is football, really. Anyone can do it from any level.

JI: I see you on tape, and I see a nasty dude willing to drive defenders into the dirt. What goes into developing that mentality to play with that much aggression and confidence in your ability?

CM: Honestly, I think the mentality just kind of develops on its own. I didn’t even really try to [develop it]. The way I see it, I’m just out there just playing to the whistle, playing as hard as I can. I don’t really know if I ever like tried to hone and develop this “tough guy mentality”, [and] try to just kill people. You’re just trying to block as hard as you can until the end of the whistle, and that stuff just happens.

JI: How does your past background as a tight end help you out along the offensive line?

CM: I think it’s helped a lot in terms of footwork or athleticism stuff. I still kind of have that in my background. Also, just playbook-wise, at least for me at NDSU, playing tight end for a year, knowing that playbook, and then moving over the line. Now, when I’m running these combos with the tight ends, I know what they’re expecting, what they’re looking for. I think it all really ties together when you know what a tight end’s expecting.

JI: I’m sure you’ve seen the popular ESPN graphic showing you when you first started at NDSU and where you are now. What was your reaction when you first saw that?

CM: Yeah, I thought it was funny. Going through the process, you don’t really like to think about big-picture stuff like that. It all just kind of seemed like you take it day by day, and then all of a sudden, you look back and “wow, I gained 85 pounds, and I looked a little bit different than I than I did back then”. I think it was cool to see those pictures side-by-side, just the body progression through five years. I was wandering through it, and I was still kind of shocked at it.

JI: Playing for a prestigious program like North Dakota State, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of great experiences in your collegiate career, so what do you think your favorite memory was from your time there?

CM: I think anytime you can end up on the stage after winning a National Championship, it’s just such an unforgettable feeling. Thankfully for me, it happened more than once, but probably the feeling [of] last year’s National Championship meant a lot, because it was my first one that I was a starter, and you’re contributing more to the team. I was coming back for a sixth year, but a lot of the guys in my class, a lot of them were going to be done, so it’s kind of our last time to celebrate something like that together as teammates. Really, just sending those guys out on the right note and getting one last chance to be teammates with a lot of my best friends, that was one of the most memorable things for me.

2022 NCAA Division I Football Championship Photo by Zach Del Bello/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

JI: You’ve been teammates with NFL draft picks like Dillon Radunz and Cordell Volson. What did being teammates with those guys do for your game?

CM: Yeah, I think it helped a lot, not only for guys that I can consult have conversations with about what I’m gonna get myself into, stuff like that. I talk to Cordell a lot about the process, how to go about it and whatnot. Even looking back a couple years ago when they were still here, those are the guys that I was competing against. I was a tackle, they were all tackles. I’m competing against them, but I’m also getting to learn from them, [who are] some of the best ever do it at our school. I was able to learn from them and try to mimic it or give them some kind of competition. To be able to learn from guys like that was just awesome for me.

JI: That’s cool you and Cordell keep in touch.

CM: For sure. You get to get not only ask him questions, but also just hear his life story a little bit different than it was a year or two ago. It’s good to catch up with him whenever we can.

JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?

CM: A couple of things. In North Dakota, there’s not a whole lot to do, so we’ll go out and do some hunting, pheasant hunting, duck or geese hunting, something like that. I really enjoy that; it’s fun to do. It’s also fun to just spend some time with your friends, doing stuff like that. I have a dog, so I spend a lot of time with him or I take it for runs, or he’ll come hunting with us. Probably, just hanging out with friends, doing stuff like that, and just chilling with my dog.

JI: What kind of dog do you have?

CM: I have a chocolate lab. He’s almost three. His name’s Motley.

JI: You’re a North Dakota guy, so did you grow up a Vikings fan?

CM: Yeah, sadly (laughs). [I’ve] been a Vikes fan my whole life.

JI: You guys had a good regular season this year, at least!

CM: Yeah, [I] can’t be sad about that. It’s just seems like we always get our hopes up and get kind of crushed (laughs).

JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?

CM: Good question. I think you get a guy who understands football well. At NDSU, we run a variety of different schemes, so I understand football well. I am a good locker room guy. I’m always making sure the vibes are high. When it’s business time, it’s business time, but, I like to keep things loose a little bit and [try] to keep things light in the locker room and whatnot.