SIOUX FALLS – Dennis Gardeck, who earned five All-American honors for the University of Sioux Falls Football Team in 2017, has signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals and will head to their camp later this year.
Gardeck of Lake in the Hills, Ill., turned heads this spring at the South Dakota State University Pro Day in Brookings with 31 reps of 225 pounds and strong performance in speed and agility drills. Arizona, directed by head coach Steve Wilks, finished 8-8 (3rd, NFL West) in 2017-18.
"We are very excited for the opportunity Dennis has created for himself," said USF head coach Jon Anderson, who coached Gardeck at both USF and West Virginia State. "Since I was with him from the time he was a redshirt freshman through his fifth year senior year, it is impressive to see how he has continually improved himself. He has earned every opportunity that has come his way and I'm confident he will earn his way onto an NFL roster. All of his USF Football family will be watching and wishing him well," he said.
Gardeck, a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award and a nominee for the Harlon Hill Trophy, was selected to the DII Associated Press, D2Football.com and DII Conference Commissioner's Association (D2 CCA) All-American Football Team first teams and second team on the American Football Coaches Association Don Hansen teams.
As a senior, he helped lead USF, which was ranked #20 in the final AFCA Poll, to a 9-3 record and a fourth consecutive postseason berth, including a third-straight DII playoff appearance. He ranked second in the nation with 14 sacks and had 21 tackles for loss, which was fifth in NCAA DII.
A graduate transfer from West Virginia State where he was a three-time All-Mountain East performer, Gardeck had an instant impact on a USF defense that ranked second in total defense by allowing a program-DII best 244.3 yards per game. With Gardeck's contributions, the Cougars ranked third nationally in rushing defense at 67.8 yards per game. Sparked by Gardeck, USF finished second in scoring defense at 12.5 points per game, allowing just 123 total points, a program DII-best at USF. The defense allowed opponents to rush over 200 yards once and held nine opponents to under 100 yards.
Gardeck earned his fourth all-conference selection (three-time Mountain East honoree) and was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2017. He was named first-team All-NSIC, was fifth in NCAA DII with 1.17 sacks per game. Gardeck, who had a sack in USF's playoff loss to No. 5 Midwestern State (24-20), had 13 solo sacks also second nationally.
In 2017, he recorded a team-best 75 tackles, including two double digit tackle games and nine in the playoff loss. Gardeck led the NSIC in sacks and TFLs while also recovering a fumble, forced two fumbles and recorded a safety to clinch the 21-14 "Key to the City" game over city rival Augustana at Bob Young Field. In his first game at USF, he put together a memorable performance, registering a program-DII best five sacks in a 26-7 win over Minnesota-Duluth on the road on August 31. The five-sack performance by Gardeck against UMD was the single-best individual sack performance in DII this year.
Six times he had seven tackles or more, while recording a tackle for loss in 10 of USF's 12 games. He had two or more TFLs six times. Gardeck had a sack in eight games with two or more sacks four times. Gardeck finished his career with 345 career tackles, 57.5 tackles for loss, 32 sacks, nine forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. .