By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz said it many times when recalling the recruitment of defensive lineman Parker Hesse.
“We knew he was a football player,” Iowa’s head football coach said. “We just didn’t know where he would play.”
The same was probably said by the 43 scouts representing 31 NFL teams at Iowa football Pro Day on Monday in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. Hesse, who made 47 career starts at defensive end for the Hawkeyes, was also showing off his receiving and blocking skills.
“(Strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle suggested that I work out as kind of a fullback-tight end,” Hesse said. “Some of the scouts also asked to see me in some of the drills.”
It was nothing out of the ordinary for the 6-foot-3, 261-pound Hesse. As a student-athlete at Waukon (Iowa) High School, he took offensive snaps at tailback, slot receiver, and tight end. As a senior, he exclusively played quarterback, throwing for 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for 1,273 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Hesse still believes he can play defense at the next level, but for the time being, he is making himself as marketable as possible.
“I’m not going to close any doors or any opportunity,” Hesse said. “Just being able to do multiple things adds value, it will help me carve out a spot on a roster.
“Doing different things, both physically and mentally, helps you keep growing and keep learning. That’s what you’re used to doing, you’re used to doing different things and learning new skills. That helped me in high school playing different positions in football, but also playing different sports. It has helped me become more versatile as a football player.”
Hesse was named honorable mention All-Big Ten, leading Iowa to a record of 9-4 and an Outback Bowl victory over No. 18 Mississippi State. He had six tackles and a tackle for loss during the 27-22 victory over the Bulldogs. For the season, Hesse was fourth of the Hawkeye tackle chart with 58. He had 9 ½ tackles for loss, four sacks, and three quarterback hurries.
Hesse is also an Academic All-Big Ten selection and Iowa’s representative for the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award.
But his on-field statistics and grade-point average aren’t the biggest selling points to the pros, he said.
“The things I have learned as an Iowa football player, the way we run our program, it is very professional,” Hesse said. “You show up on time, take care of your business, be excited to work, and do what’s asked of you as a team member. Those are recognized throughout the National Football League as qualities they are looking for in players to help them win. The skills I have learned here are my biggest attributes going forward.”
The NFL Draft is April 25-27 and Hesse has no idea if his name will be called. What he knows is that he still has a passion for the game and wants to continue playing.
“I’m not one to make predictions or get the cart ahead of the horse, but I enjoy playing football and it’s something my teammates and I have put a lot of time and effort into,” Hesse said. “Any future the NFL can give me is something I am going to pursue hard, whether it’s on the practice squad or active roster, would be a thrill for me.”
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