March 21, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Austin Blythe went to a job interview Monday because that’s what husbands and expectant fathers do. While interviews can be understandably stressful for the job-seeker, Blythe perspired more than your run-of-the-mill candidate.
He was poked, prodded, and put on display for whatever National Football League team that wanted to look his direction. He ran, shuttled, lifted, and jumped. And through all the sweat and heavy breathing there was a smile.
“It was fun. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, you’re not going to get that again, so it was fun to take advantage of it,” said Blythe, a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder from Williamsburg, Iowa.
Blythe started 45 consecutive games on the University of Iowa offensive line and was twice named second-team All-Big Ten Conference. He was one of three finalists for the Rimington Award, presented to the nation’s best center.
Projected as a sixth or seventh round draft pick, Blythe said he bettered nearly all of his marks posted at the NFL Combine from Feb. 24-29. He ran 5.36 in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, benched 225 pounds 29 times, had a 27 ½-inch vertical jump, and an 8-foot-3 broad jump.
“I came in wanting to improve everything I did at the Combine — other than bench — and I think I did that (Monday),” Blythe said. “I showed people who I was athletically and I think I did well for myself.”
“Iowa is a respected program, especially by professionals. It is a testament to the type of program coach (Kirk) Ferentz has built over the past 17 seasons and this continues to prove it.”
UI senior center
The average career length for an NFL player is a little more than three years. Blythe and his family recognize that short window. He was married May 16, 2015, and he and his wife, Kiley, are expecting their first child June 9.
“You’re going to be done playing by 35 if you’re lucky,” Blythe said. “You have to take advantage of the opportunity you’re given.”
On March 16, Adam LaRoche of the Chicago White Sox walked away from a $13 million contract so he could spend more time with family. Blythe considered time with and away from family before chasing his professional aspirations.
“I have a lot of time with my family and future family,” Blythe said. “I am going to have fun (playing football) as long as I can and have fun with my family afterward.”
Every team from the NFL was represented at Iowa’s Pro Day, held in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. That isn’t uncommon and it wasn’t a surprise to Blythe.
“Iowa is a respected program, especially by professionals,” Blythe said. “It is a testament to the type of program coach (Kirk) Ferentz has built over the past 17 seasons and this continues to prove it.”
The 2016 NFL Draft will begin April 28 in Chicago. Last year UI offensive tackle Brandon Scherff was selected fifth overall by the Washington Redskins and was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team.
There have been 58 Hawkeyes taken in the NFL Draft during Ferentz’s first 16 seasons as head coach — seven have gone in the first round. Blythe should extend that draft streak to 17 years in a row. How high and where he goes is to be determined.
“I have talked to a lot of good teams and I’m excited to see where I may end up,” Blythe said.