IOWA CITY – For some Iowa football players, Monday’s Pro Day was another step in the process of working toward draft day.
For others, it meant everything.
“Two years ago, I was just trying to get enough attention to play Division I. Now, I’m out here training in front of NFL scouts,’’ Hawkeye receiver Nick Easley said. “It’s an amazing experience.’’
With scouts from all 32 teams looking on at the Iowa Football Performance Center, draft-eligible Hawkeyes ran, jumped, lifted weights, participated in drills and answered any question they were asked at the event one month before this year’s NFL Draft begins.
“For 10 weeks, I’ve been training for this day, hoping to catch somebody’s eye,’’ free safety Jake Gervase said. “It’s not unlike when I arrived at Iowa as a walk-on, I’m giving it everything I have to give myself a chance to compete at the next level.’’
That’s why defensive lineman Sam Brincks forged ahead and completed every drill after suffering a slight groin injury while running a 40-yard dash.
It’s why offensive guard Ross Reynolds was more than pleased with his 27 reps of bench-pressing 225 pounds, an effort that will only help expand possibilities of being selected in the seven-round draft or landing a free-agent opportunity.
“I feel good about how things went, not only for myself but for my teammates,’’ Reynolds said. “A lot of guys had really good days today and this is when you have to make it happen.’’
Easley felt like he accomplished what he set out to do.
“I ran all the routes, caught all the balls I was supposed to catch, showed that I can change direction the way I need to,’’ he said. “It was a good day.’’
The passes Easley caught were being thrown by a former teammate, Tyler Wiegers, who competed as a graduate transfer last fall at Eastern Michigan but participated in the Iowa Pro Day because the Hawkeyes had no draft-eligible quarterbacks on the roster to fill that role during position drills.
Easley and Gervase said sleep was a little hard to come by Sunday night.
The hours leading up to the start of the Pro Day – a scenario being played out at college campuses across the country in the weeks leading up the draft – were labeled “anxious’’ by Easley.
Gervase said there was “some adrenaline flowing’’ as it all began.
“This is the one chance we get to do this in college and you want to make sure you’re on top of everything,’’ Gervase said.
For the four Hawkeyes who participated in the NFL Combine four weeks ago, Monday’s Pro Day was a different experience.
Tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, defensive back Amani Hooker and defensive end Anthony Nelson performed well enough at the Combine that each chose to let their measurable performances in Indianapolis stand, but they did participate in position drills to give scouts another look at their abilities.
For example, Fant said he had a chance to put his route-running, passing catching and run blocking skills on display.
“Just another chance to get in front of those teams and keep building the relationships that are part of the process,’’ said Fant, who indicated he has had interviews with 22 NFL teams.
Fant, who left the Iowa program before preparations began for the Hawkeyes’ Outback Bowl victory over Mississippi State, trained in California prior to the Combine to concentrate on gaining weight while maintaining quickness.
With that accomplished, he has moved back to Iowa City and will join other teammates in working out under the watch of Chris Doyle and the Hawkeye strength and conditioning staff over the next few weeks.
“Now, I need to get back in football shape and there’s no better place to do that than with coach Doyle,’’ Fant said.
Hockenson is on campus to get the same work in, preparing himself to report to whatever team ultimately selects him in good shape and ready to go.
“It’s good to be out here with all of these guys. I’m comfortable here, feeling good and it was good to be out there today,’’ Hockenson said. “I saw a lot of guys doing things they had never done before. That’s what Pro Day is about and a lot of guys put on a good performance.’’