There has been no better time to be an Iowa State player in the NFL than the
last five years. The success under Head Coach Dan McCarney by appearing in four
bowl games in the last five years has drawn interest in Cyclone football players
by NFL organizations. Many beloved and loyal Iowa State followers have to go
back to the Earle Bruce's 1973-78 teams to have as many an impact players in the
NFL like the past five years under Dan McCarney. With former Cyclone greats LB
Matt Blair, WR Luther Blue, RB Mike Strachan, TE Keith Krakau and WR Ike Harris
all having decent careers in the NFL, so too are current Cyclones longing to
bring a new tradition for Iowa State and its fans.
The far and away inspiring story in the upcoming 2005 season with this new generation of Cyclones is the 6-5, 270lb defensive end from Dolton, Illinois, Reggie Hayward, who just signed a 5-yr, 25 million dollar contract as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hayward is coming off his most successful year playing for the Denver Broncos who drafted Reggie as the 87th pick in the 2001 NFL draft. His 10.5 sacks lead the Broncos and he started in fifteen games including the AFC wild-card game in which he recorded a sack against Peyton Manning. The former All Big-12 defensive end has left his mark with the Broncos where he tied a team record for obtaining a four game streak in achieving a sack that hadn't been done since DE Alfred Williams did it in 1996. Reggie also had a 76 yard interception return that sets a mark for the longest non-scoring return in Bronco history and ranks fourth overall. In addition to those marks, Hayward tied a team rookie record back in 2001 vs. Seattle by recording three sacks in one game. A feat he has done twice.
During Reggie's press conference, Head Coach Jack Del Rio said that Reggie, "
fills a need for them and he is an ascending player, a young player. We believe
his best football is ahead of him. We believe Reggie will take our defense to
another level." Hayward who receives a 10-million dollar sign on bonus was
overwhelmed by DE Pro Bowlers Marcus Stroud and John Henderson in how much they
wanted him to be a part of the Jaguars. He feels that by those two grabbing a
lot of attention in double teams that will free him on the right end to go
one-on-one, which he feels he is quicker and smarter than anytime in his career.
What impressed the coaching staff, especially Jack Del Rio, was Reggie's 7 of
his total 10.5 sacks being against AFC South teams. "If 19 sacks over the last
two years is just the tip of the iceberg, then that's good for
If Reggie Hayward is just reaching his full potential, then fellow teammate of the 2000 season, Miami Dolphin QB Sage Rosenfels hopes his time is now. Playing third-string for his entire career, Sage got his chance to show his potential last year on the last game for the Dolphins against the Baltimore Ravens as started Jay Fiedler and backup A.J. Feeley were injured and he got the nod. It started with a bang as on the first play of the game he threw a touchdown pass to WR Chris Chambers but that would be the only one that day. He ended up 16-38 throwing for 264 yards with that lone TD and 3 INT's. Sage is looking to battle for the backup job with A.J. Feeley as starter Jay Fiedler went to the New York Jets. Free agent signee Gus Freotte wants to be the starter as new Head Coach, Nick Saben has mentioned that Gus feels that's the reason he was brought into Miami. Sage will have to use his mobility as he did with Iowa State to move into that #2 spot in the depth cart come this July 25th when training starts for the Dolphins. This will be Sages second go around with a new "hot" college coach taking a crack at the NFL with Nick Saben as Sage was drafted (#109th pick) by the Washington Redskins and then first year coach Steve Spurrier who is now back in the college ranks with South Carolina. The Dolphins open pre-season play in the Hall of Fame game against the Chicago Bears on Monday, August 2nd on ABC. We might see two Iowa's getting some playing time that night as Kyle Orton from Runnels will try to make the Bears roster.
In continuing with quarterbacks, none was ever finer than the agile, sensational, human highlight, Seneca Wallace. Wallace, in his third year with the Seattle Seahawks, is scheduled to be the backup for Matt Hasselbeck as Trent Dilfer departed for the Minnesota Vikings. Seneca has not thrown a pass during regular season play with the Seahawks his first two years but is 65-120 for 439 yards with 1 TD and 4 INT's during pre-season play. Things look good for Wallace as Seattle has two rookie quarterbacks and 3rd year player David Greene from Georgia competing for the #2 spot.
Another 2000 Cyclone senior is DT James Reed, who was the 206th pick for the New York Jets in the 2001 draft. James is heading into his 5th season and will be looking to make a splash like Hayward did in 2004. Reed has played in 64 career games with just only two starts. His career defensive totals are 118 tackles, 4 sacks and couple fumble recoveries. Reed sees most of his action on third down and long situations to prevent draw plays up the middle. If there is an urgency to emerge as a valuable player, this is the year for James Reed.
Free agent signee DT Jordan Carstens has signed a 1-yr contract with the Carolina Panthers. I spoke with Jordan from his parents home in Bagley, Iowa and his is oppomistic about this season with the Panthers. He feels that he is on the second string but as all Cyclone fans know, this former walk-on will bust his rump to stop at nothing in making the Panther two deep. He mentioned that its nice to be working with Defensive Coordinator, Mike Trgovac, as they run the 4-3 set with some things similar to his days as a Cyclone. Jordan is the only undrafted rookie for Carolina to get a start, which was against Oakland on November 7, 2004. He posted his first NFL fumble recovery in a game against the Arizona Cardinals as well last season. I asked Jordan if he's kept up to date with the current Cyclones and he informed me that he attended the spring game this year and was impressed with Coach Mac has in the defensive front. He was recently back for a wedding in which he has spoken with Nick Leaders and others on the team and wishes them great success this upcoming season. I was curious to get his thoughts of last years team in beating Nebraska since he was part of the 2002 team to do it in Ames as well. He was very elated of the outcome and has been able to have a one-up on current Panthers and former Huskers S Mike Minter and CB Lionell McPherson who didn't want to hear it. (Let's hope he has another chance again this fall.)
Another outstanding alumni is Oliver Ross who currently the only offensive lineman from Iowa State on an NFL roster. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 98' but played one year there before playing one year with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has spent the past five years with the Pittsburg Steelers, solidifying their offensive line and making him a target in free agency which the Arizona Cardinals signed Ross to a 5-yr deal as unrestricted free agent. He will now be blocking for former Iowan Kurt Warner after helping rookie Ben Roethlisberher lead the Steelers to the AFC Championship game.
These former Cyclones who you've just read about have pathed the way to allow the next great ambassadors to Iowa State live out their dream in making it to the NFL. Mr Cyclone of the 2004 season, Ellis Hobbs III and former Dowling standout Tyson Smith are hoping to make an impact with their teams. Hobbs was drafted in the third round by the Super Bowl Champs, New England Patriots but may see his playing time be in the kicking game. Head Coach, Bill Belechick said on draft day of Hobbs, " He's a tough kid. He has some cover skills. He runs well, is a strong tackler and is a good competitor. I think he's got good value for us on defense and hopefully in the kicking game." Ellis could see time on the kick return team which he posted a career 20.4 average while with the Cyclones. Tyson Smith signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens and looks to learn from All-Pro Linebacker, Ray Lewis.
The last player who currently is under contract is TE Mike Banks who signed on with New Orleans after playing three seasons with the Cardinals. Banks has not caught a pass during regular season play but appears to be finding his way onto the field in the kicking game as well. There is much competition on the Saints roster with three veterans having 6 plus years in the NFL.
Cyclone football players are starting to make an impact in the NFL and with Dan McCarney's ability to grow the Iowa State program these numbers should rise making the NFL season for Cyclone fans more enjoyable knowing that there are Clones alive and well.