After waiting, and waiting, to have his named called in the NFL draft, Iowa defensive back Desmond King finds himself in familiar territory.
“I have to prove myself all over again,” King said Saturday after being selected by the Los Angeles Chargers with the seventh pick in the fifth round of the seven-round draft.
King’s call came later than expected.
Projected as a likely late second- or third-round choice, King spent Friday evening gathered with family and friends to watch the draft and wait as one pick after another was announced.
Hawkeye teammates Jaleel Johnson, made the second pick of the fourth round Saturday by Minnesota, and George Kittle, reunited with third-round pick C.J. Beathard when he was taken by San Francisco with the second choice of the fifth round, were selected before the Chargers helped King put one question to rest.
“I was beginning to wonder if my phone was broke or something,’’ King joked to reporters in Los Angeles shortly after the Chargers made the two-time all-American and 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner the 151st overall pick.
King, who gathered again with family members on Saturday, said the wait tested his patience.
“You know it’s going to happen. You just don’t know when the call is coming,’’ he said. “I tried to keep it cool.’’
Ultimately, he took it all in stride.
“I got the one thing I wanted, an opportunity to play in the NFL and now it’s up to me what to do with it,’’ King said. “It’s like when I came in at Iowa, all I heard was that I was too short, too slow, but I think I answered any questions about whether I could play.’’
King started in 51 of the 53 games he played at cornerback for the Hawkeyes, intercepting 14 passes including eight during his junior season to tie a school record.
At 5-foot-10, 201 pounds, King’s size may lead him to a safety position in the NFL and the Detroit native is fine with that.
“Any way I can help a team. Cornerback, safety, special teams, I’m willing to go out there and help. That’s always been who I am. That doesn’t change now,’’ King said.
“I’m ready to get to work. That’s always been my attitude — give it 110 percent — and that’s the plan now, show the Chargers they picked the right guy and show everybody else what they missed.’’
Johnson and Kittle are anxious to get to work as well.
In the months since the end of an all-Big Ten senior season, Johnson had frequent contact with the Vikings, who took him with the 109th overall pick in the draft.
“I waited for my entire life for this chance. My senior season and the Senior Bowl were huge for me,’’ Johnson said. “It gave me a chance to compete against some of the best guys in the country and show people in the NFL that I could compete against those guys. That gave me the chance.’’
Kittle became the ninth Iowa tight end selected in the NFL draft in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 18 seasons after catching 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career, including 22 for 314 yards last season.
The 49ers took him with the 146th overall pick and the second choice in the fifth round.
“I feel like I’m a very versatile player,’’ Kittle said in a conference call with San Francisco media. “I can block anybody. I can move around, run routes and catch passes. I can do whatever they need me to do.’’
He welcomes the chance to join Beathard with the 49ers.
“I’ve been with him for the past five years, every step of the way … and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field with him,’’ Kittle said. “He is a genius in the film room and one of the best leaders I have ever been around.’’
Beathard said in a call late Friday night that he considers himself a good fit for what San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan wants to do, labeling it a good opportunity although Shanahan said plans are for Beathard to spend the upcoming season developing his skills.
“I’m looking forward to going in there and working my butt off and do the best I can to help the team,’’ he said. “I want to be part of making the 49ers a great team. That’s my philosophy going in, to do the best I can to help the team be successful right away.’’
The four Hawkeyes who were drafted are Iowa’s largest group of draft choices since six were taken in the 2012 draft.
Three Hawkeyes — offensive lineman Cole Croston with the Patriots, cornerback Greg Mabin with the Buccaneers and receiver Riley McCarron with the Texans — announced free-agent signings following the draft, as did former Iowa cornerback Maurice Fleming with the Buccaneers.
Other signings included Iowa State defensive end Jhaustin Thomas with the Colts and defensive back Jomal Wiltz with the Eagles, Northern Iowa defensive lineman Karter Schult with the Browns and Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt with the Vikings and receiver Justin Hardee with the Texans.