It took two rounds of recruiting, but Ryan Nielsen will get a chance to coach Gus Cumberlander after all.
Nielsen, the New Orleans Saints' defensive line coach since 2017, was defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator/run-game coordinator at North Carolina State from 2013-16. Cumberlander, a 6-foot-7 defensive lineman from Ellenwood, Ga., was on Nielsen's radar, but Nielsen couldn't entice Cumberlander in 2015 to enroll at the school in Raleigh, N.C.
Cumberlander wound up at Oregon; Nielsen, in New Orleans with the Saints.
But when Cumberlander went undrafted this year after an injury-shortened senior season with the Ducks, he didn't hesitate to jump at the current opportunity to be coached by Nielsen.
"I'm assuming he saw that I was coming out of school, he reached out and it was just an opportunity," Cumberlander said. "He left N.C. State to go to the NFL, so it was an opportunity to make something happen and I would love to be coached by him.
"We already kind of had that understanding. I loved him when he was at N.C. State, I considered going there because of him."
Cumberlander missed the final nine games of his senior season due to a left knee injury. He started four of five games, and totaled 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and seven tackles, and was named Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Stanford, when he posted his 1.5 sacks.
"It was hard (missing games last season)," Cumberlander said. "Coming from a 4-8 season, to winning the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl. A lot of the senior class and a lot of the guys were really happy just to make that turnaround. (But) for someone to not be able to be on the field and watch their hard work in particular pay off, it was rough.
"But we had a plan and we got it done. I was definitely happy for those guys, definitely proud of them, how we bounced back from that 4-8 season. It was tough, but I was still able to be there to help coach some of the younger guys and do what I could to still feel a part.
"I feel like I was making some pretty big jumps. I made Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week for the Stanford game, I feel like I had some momentum under me. But I came to the realization that that's nothing I could control. Just try to control the controllable. But I definitely feel like if I was able to play, I would have had maybe a different outcome (in the draft)."
The outcome he seeks now is to make the Saints' roster, at a position where New Orleans always is seeking quality support.
He said he has recovered from the injury, and has spoken to Nielsen regularly since agreeing to contract terms after the draft.
"I'm feeling great," Cumberlander said. "Even though the pandemic is going on, a lot of people aren't able to work out, I was fortunate to be able to work out at a facility here in Georgia. The pandemic hasn't caused any interruptions or anything stopping my recovery. I've been feeling great, it's been a great process.
"(He and Nielsen) speak almost every day or two. They're more focused on things as far as administrative – if something's coming up, or just seeing how we're doing, just checking in.
"Maybe not necessarily as football-based as a normal conversation would be between player and coach. With the pandemic at hand, we've been more communicating on daily things."