A visit from the NFL
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National Football League scouts, coaches, and general managers had stopwatches and measuring tape out Monday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
It was Pro Day at the University of Iowa, and although offensive lineman Riley Reiff was the most prodded and scrutinized, plenty of Hawkeyes are ready to contribute and excel at the professional level.
Kirk Ferentz is flanked by Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel and Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli at Pro Day in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. Photo by Darren Miller.
UI football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and his staff coordinate the event annually.
"Pro Day is a lot of fun for us because it's an opportunity to showcase our guys," Doyle says. "They spend four to five years here and invest a lot of time and preparation in getting ready for this step, so we feel obligated to help these guys. It's like graduation day—our guys are moving on to their next challenge."
The Kansas City Chiefs, with the No. 11 pick in the first round, sent the largest contingent to Iowa City: general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel, offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni, and scout Terry Delp. If Reiff is still on the board in the first round April 26, the Chiefs will likely pounce, but most mock drafts have the 6-foot-6, 300-pound native of Parkston, S.D., going four picks earlier to Jacksonville.
"One of the things about Iowa football is that the players who come here are well-coached," Crennel says. "They're technique-sound, they play hard, try hard, they're competitive. We know that you're going to get fundamentally sound guys who are very competitive and who give you a good day's work."
Wide receiver Marvin McNutt Jr. is projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick after catching 166 passes for 2,815 yards and 28 touchdowns during his UI career. His size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), sure hands, and excellent route-running make him an appealing NFL prospect.
"Playing at Iowa prepared me well," McNutt says. "The whole program is built to make you better and make you learn. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach Doyle do a good job in preparing us for what's ahead at the next level."
Between the Insight Bowl and Pro Day, McNutt trained in Arizona at the Athletes' Performance Institute. He said he will probably spend draft weekend at home in St. Louis. But until then...
"I'm just going to continue to work hard and get ready to play special teams when I get to the next level," McNutt says. "I also want to keep learning the game and continue to hone my skills and get better."
Jumper’s knee, or patella tendonitis, has slowed cornerback Shaun Prater in the days leading up to the NFL Combine and Pro Day. On Monday, he showed that he was willing to work through knee discomfort and still post a swift time in the 40-yard dash.
"I wanted to show them I was fast," Prater says. "Pretty much every scout that talked to me wanted to see how fast I was. I wanted to show them I am able to work out through pain and still run fast times."
Prater will go through more drills April 5 when defensive lineman Mike Daniels works out for scouts.
Tight end Brad Herman missed the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma because of injury, but he has since recovered and turned in an impressive Pro Day. He knows that playing in Iowa's pro-style offense will help him as a professional.
"The way (college) offenses are going now, tight ends are used as glorified wide outs," Herman says. "They don't learn the true techniques of blocking; then when they get to the next level, they just want to catch passes, but no one wants to do the dirty work. That's where Iowa tight ends come in, and that's why they've been in the league so long."
Last season Jordan Bernstine started 11 games at strong safety, where he finished third on the team with 89 tackles. Bernstine also returned 30 kickoffs for an average of 23.8 yards and a long of 62. That versatility does not go unnoticed among scouts.
"I'm hearing good things," Bernstine says. "Some of the pros think I can help out on special teams right away. I'm trying to go out and show them that I can do whatever they need."