(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
Former Griz football safety Justin Strong confirmed Monday he is heading to the Big Apple this week after receiving an invitation to attend a minicamp held by the New York Jets.
Strong leaves for camp Thursday looking to join fellow Grizzly alum and NFL Pro-Bowler Trumaine Johnson in the Jets’ defensive backfield.
He is the second player from the Griz class of 2017 to earn a shot at an NFL roster after cornerback Ryan McKinley signed as an Undrafted Free Agent with the Tennessee Titans shortly after the draft concluded Saturday.
Strong turned heads in front of a scout from the Jets at Montana’s Pro Day with a 40 time of 4.55 seconds, which would have been one of the fastest time of any player from the FCS ranks at the NFL Combine.
He also hit 17 reps on the 225-pound bench press, which would have been a Top-15 overall result at the combine.
“I feel great. Everything I worked for showed up today, and that’s the best feeling, to be honest,” said Strong after his Pro Day performance.
But what really caught the attention of pro scouts and fans alike was his two-year performance as a Grizzly, highlighted by UM’s 2017 win at Portland State where he picked off three interceptions and returned one for a pick-six all while wearing a cast on his left hand.
He also intercepted a PSU two-point conversion attempt that would have put him at four INTs on the day had it counted in the stats.
That remarkable performance earned him a hat-trick of weekly awards as well as feature on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Strong was named the NCAA FCS National Defensive Player of the Week, the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week, and the ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week in the days following the game.
Strong transferred to Montana from Oregon State in 2016, racking up 115 tackles, seven TFLs, and seven interceptions during his two-year career at UM, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.
The Rialto, California, native was twice presented the “Golden Helmet Award” for the team’s hardest hitter at the annual awards banquet.
Strong’s brother Victor Butler is a former NFL draftee who is currently on the Toronto Argonauts’ roster in the CFL.