Nate Kaeding is simply the best place kicker in Iowa football history and one of the best ever in the Big Ten and all of college football.
Kaeding ended his Iowa career tied for the most kicking points ever scored in Big Ten history and the third most points scored in the league by all players.
He had the best field goal percentage from 40-yards or longer in the history of college football. He is 10th all time in kicking points scored in NCAA history. His 22 consecutive field goal streak over the span of the 2001 & 2002 seasons is an Iowa record and the second longest streak in Big Ten history.
When you put together a career like that, you are going to be playing football on Sunday's.
Which is why HawkeyeNation.com is pleased to bring you Nate Kaeding's NFL Draft Diary series.
We will be speaking with Nate over the coming weeks, talking to him about the NFL, his preparation, the combine and all aspects of what his life will be like right up to draft day in April.
Why don't you catch the Iowa fans up on what you have been doing since the Outback Bowl?
It's been a lot different from past years from the standpoint that the highest point of my kicking isn't going to be over until the end of March. I think my last pro-day right now is around March 26. So, that's me kicking at full go from the early part of August right through the end of March. You're looking at seven or eight months there of full go, which my body isn't used to. I'm going full out.
I came back from Outback Bowl and hit the ground running. I had my agent send me some balls right away after the game and started kicking the new NFL balls in the bubble and just doing a lot of prep work for the Senior Bowl. I came right back and jumped into a weightlifting program. I got into a new kicking program getting ready for the Senior Bowl.
I went down there and had a real solid week. I kicked the ball real well, and I think, made a real good first impression. I came back here to give my leg a good rest for about a week. Coach Doyle has been real good about helping me out with getting a program set. I didn't kick at all the week after the Senior Bowl. Then I did some real heavy lifting to get some strength back in my leg. Now, I'm in the heaviest part of my combine preparation. Right now, I'm just kicking a lot of balls out of a snap and hold. I'm just hoping to reaffirm some things for the scouts at my combine day next week.
What are the difference between the college ball and NFL ball?
The biggest difference is that the NFL ball is brand new. They have these special K balls that they use. I have to get use to kicking a new ball. It takes about three or four yards off of your kick. That's about what everybody is saying and what I've noticed, too. It's a slightly different shape. It flies a little bit different off of your foot. You have to make that adjustment. Now that I have about a month and a half under my belt kicking with it, I'm use to it pretty well.
Having gone straight through since August without much of a rest, have you hit any valleys or walls with your game?
What really helped me is that I came in with a comprehensive plan of what I was going to want to get done from the start of August all the way until now. I knew what weeks I was going to have off, and I've really geared my body towards performing well. I took a week off, which I typically don't do right after the regular season was over leading up to the bowl game so I might have a little more power in my leg for that game down in Tampa. I have some stuff left in the bank at this time of year. I kicked a lot less balls in practice, especially for my bowl prep. I mean, I didn't kick more than 15 balls leading all the way up to the game down in Tampa.
I think that I hit the wall a week or two back after the bye week. I kind of had some injury problems or what have you; not injury problems, but just a sore leg for the most part, which kind of bothered me there during the middle to latter part of our college season. But I'm really happy. I couldn't ask to feel any better now. I was a little worried about it because you can't miss out with an injury now. Now is your time to gain an opportunity for a team to draft you. Now is probably the most important time for my NFL preparation so I can perform well for these scouts.
What kind of feedback did you get from the scouts down at the Senior Bowl, and did you get a feel for what they were looking for?
That's the toughest thing for me up until April 24, the whole uncertainty about it. You hear one thing here, and you hear another thing there. You can't really assume anything. People are telling you that you're going to get drafted here or you're going to be a free agent or whatever. I'm just going into it saying that I have absolutely no expectations. Just like anything else, I'm going to concentrate on what I can control. I'm going to put my best foot forward. I know that if I go out and if I perform well at the combine, if I perform well at pro days, it's going to help me out a lot.
Hopefully, a team understands and sees the importance of what I did here in my college career at Iowa. You're going to be hard pressed to find somebody that's put together a better resume than I've had in game-like situations. And I would think, and I would hope that NFL personnel and NFL teams are going to be looking at what somebody does in game-like situations and what kind of person they are on and off of the field. My resume that I developed here at Iowa is going to be unmatched and it puts me at a different level than anybody else.
Did you take the Wonderlic test? And if you did, what did you think of that?
Yeah. I took that and scored decent. You take a lot of goofy tests down there at the Senior Bowl. They're asking if you could be a poet or work on cars, which would you rather do? If you could be any animal, which would you be? Have you ever thought about killing someone?
How did you answer those questions?
Well, I said know to the thinking about killing someone. The Giants gave us one that was like 260 questions. What a lot of them do is try to find out what kind of person you are. They're kind of built-in lie detectors so they'll re-ask and re-word a bunch of different questions to see if you're trying to give them the answer that they want to hear. I just took the approach that there really is not right or wrong answer. Just go through them as quick as I can and be honest with them in terms of my answers. Of course, the ones where they ask if you've thought about killing anybody, you don't want to be throwing up any red flags there.
So, are you a poet or are you a mechanic?
I would probably be someone who is more of a poet. I think that I do more of the thinking than the hands-on work.
What did you put for the animal question?
A cat or a dog? I said probably a dog. I don't even know what the hell the difference is between the two of them.
Who is telling you what to expect when you go into these postseason evaluations?
Coach Doyle is kind of the main guy on the strength and conditioning front. I sit down with him and tell him...I'm real hands-on in terms of my own preparation. I put together a plan with kind of the broad stuff. Then, Coach Doyle has done a real fine job of putting together the nuts and bolts of it. I kind of get the blue print and he put things together for me; what kind of lifts that I want.
For example, when I came back from the Senior Bowl, I said, "You know, my leg is tired coach. In order to peak here in the last couple of months of this stuff, I need to gain some strength." So, he put together a nice program of two weeks of real hard lifting and real light kicking. I ended up kicking, staying on top of the ball. So, Coach Doyle has been the main go-to guy in terms of strength and conditioning.
My agent has been real informative about what to expect at the combine and keeping me up to date on everything from the NFL perspective of it. He set me up with a masseuse. He gives me a per diem every week because I'm not working because I'm still in school. That helps me support myself and eat right and be able to do that kind of thing. He sent me up some workout gear.
Coach Erb and Coach Ferentz and just the coaching staff has been helpful in terms of knowing what to expect from these NFL teams. I worked with Dan Simmons, the special teams coach of the Bengals, when I was down at the Senior Bowl. If I ever had any questions about the logistical stuff in terms of what's going to happen at the combine, what to say to certain scouts, or how to hand this situation or that situation, Coach Simmons has been real helpful, too.
If I had to put you on the spot, and you were to give me a handful of teams that showed interest in you at the Senior Bowl or since the end of the season, could you name a few?
For the most part, I don't really know what teams have interest in me specifically. Kickers and punters are not last on their list, but they have to do evaluations on 25 defensive backs and 30 linemen or what have you. Kickers are kind of last on their lists. But you know, more so as a kicker, what teams are going to need kickers more than maybe other positions. I mean the names that I hear floating around are, and a lot of it depends on what they want to do with the kickers that are there right now, a Kansas City maybe or a San Diego, a Minnesota, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh. These are teams where basically the kicker they have right now has a contract that's up or the kicker that they had last year didn't have a very good season.
Plus, you always have the teams that don't want to seem like they have interest so nobody knows what they want to do. They could sneak in there and get you. All I really know right now are what teams are going to be in the market. The Colts aren't going to draft a quarterback because they've got Peyton Manning. New England is not going to be looking to draft a kicker because they've got Adam Vinitieri. You can really rule out a good 50-60 percent of the teams that have good, established kickers by just looking at rosters.