March 26, 2009
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Ferentz media conference (March 25)
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There have been 70 senior football starters during the first decade of the Kirk Ferentz era at the University of Iowa. Sixty of those have gone on to sign with National Football League franchises.
That success-rate percentage is expected to increase next month, especially following impressive performances by former Hawkeyes at Pro Day on Monday, March 23.
“We’ve had a pretty good draft history overall,” Ferentz said. “Even our guys who have gone on as free agents have had great, great success. This year is no different. All the seniors who ended up being starters — and I include Shonn Greene in that group — played the best football of their careers. I think it’s realistic to think that all those guys will be in NFL camps in August, then it’s making the most of the opportunity they’re presented.”
The Hawkeyes that participated in the 2009 Outback Bowl who were in attendance at Pro Day were wide receiver Andy Brodell, center Rob Bruggeman, Greene (a running back), cornerback Bradley Fletcher, cornerback Drew Gardner, defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, tight end Brandon Myers and offensive lineman Seth Olsen.
“Most importantly we want our athletes to represent the Iowa football program well,” said strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. “When you look at the history of the Kirk Ferentz program at Iowa, it speaks highly of the quality of player that comes out of the University of Iowa. They are well-respected in NFL circles. The NFL knows what they’re going to get when they get a guy from Iowa — a guy who’s going to do things right, going to listen, learn and work hard on a daily basis and maximize whatever capabilities he has.”
Doyle serves as Pro Day coordinator at Iowa and even preps the Hawkeye players prior to them “interviewing” with the professional scouts and coaches.
“We’ve had a pretty good draft history overall. Even our guys who have gone on as free agents have had great, great success. This year is no different. All the seniors who ended up being starters — and I include Shonn Greene in that group — played the best football of their careers. I think it’s realistic to think that all those guys will be in NFL camps in August, then it’s making the most of the opportunity they’re presented.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“When you look at the NFL pre-draft experience, you map out about 12 weeks prior to the draft,” Doyle said. “Essentially when you look at Pro Day, it’s like executing a take-home test. You know the questions before they’re asked and it’s a matter of mastering the drills the NFL has used for years to evaluate the talent level of these players.”
Thirty scouts and three coaches from 29 NFL teams were in attendance at Iowa’s Pro Day. Ferentz said that the Hawkeye program keeps its players accessible for scouts all season, allowing the scouts to monitor regular-season practices as well. The scouting process usually begins about a year in advance.
“We want to help make the scout’s job a little bit easier,” Ferentz said. “Selfishly, we want to give our players the best exposure possible so they have an opportunity to move on in their professional careers.”
Five Iowa players — Bruggeman, Fletcher, Greene, King and Olsen — participated in the NFL Combine from Feb. 18-24 in Indianapolis. By hosting Pro Day, other Hawkeyes have an opportunity to be evaluated during the same drills, and the ones that attended the combine have an opportunity to improve their marks more than a month later.
“It’s a real benefit for everybody,” Ferentz said.
After measuring height and weight, the players are tested in the 40-yard dash (with a 10-yard acceleration time), change of direction, vertical jump, bench press, broad jump and three-cone agility. Scouts also measure arm span, hand size and flexibility. Many times the athletes are asked to participate in individual drill work. Still, game film is still the No. 1 measuring tool.
“Scouts are looking for the athleticism of the players and how they handle themselves on those specific standardized NFL testing,” Doyle said. “Nothing is more important than film the NFL coaches evaluate. Certainly a player’s resume is on film. An example is Matt Kroul, a guy who plays 50-plus games in a row in the Big Ten — that speaks highly to the kind of player he is. These tests are just one piece of the puzzle.”
Kroul could be following in the footsteps of Aaron Kampman, another great Hawkeye defensive lineman. Like Kroul, Kampman was not invited to the NFL Combine. That didn’t deter the scouts, and Kampman was selected in the fifth round of the 2002 draft (156th player chosen overall). The two-time Pro-Bowler will begin his eighth season with the Packers in the fall.
“A guy like Aaron Kampman ran here at his Pro Day and ran extremely well and tested extremely well and ended up elevating himself to have an illustrious career in the NFL,” Doyle said. “He’s just one guy who sticks out. You look at Chad Greenway, Robert Gallery as well as Dallas Clark — these are all guys who tested extremely well or they wouldn’t be in that position.”
In the past nine NFL drafts, 29 Hawkeyes have been selected, including 20 in the first five rounds. Last season defensive back Charles Godfrey was selected by Carolina in the third round, defensive end Kenny Iwebema was taken by Arizona in the fourth round and linebacker Mike Humpal was chosen by Pittsburgh in the sixth round. Defensive end Bryan Mattison (New York Jets) and running back Albert Young (Minnesota) signed free agent contracts.
“It’s a testament to the job that our coaching staff does here. Our guys do a wonderful job at developing players,” Ferentz said. “They teach good skills and fundamentals and couple that with Chris Doyle and his staff in the strength and conditioning field and I think we can document that guys with a good attitude, guys that work hard and have a positive attitude, they’ve come in and improved. It’s great to have opportunity, but more important that players take advantage of it.”
While several former Iowa players are waiting for calls from the NFL, the current Hawkeyes returned to the practice field for the first day of spring drills Wednesday, March 25. The final day of spring practice will be Saturday, April 18, and Iowa’s season-opener will be Saturday, Sept. 5, against Northern Iowa.