"I don't want to say that I'm having trouble letting go," Clauss said. "It's just like we go out there and watch practice and it's like you still think you've got another season coming up. You don't. It's done. I really don't think that it's hit me yet about not being an Iowa football player anymore. I think it will next year when I'm watching games."
The disappointment attached to hanging up his black and gold jersey is tempered by Clauss' excitement connected with this weekend's NFL Draft. The defensive lineman from West Des Moines who always dreamed of being a Hawkeye hopes to realize another long-time goal.
"It's sad, in a way, that my Hawkeye career is over, but this is the step that you've got to take," Clauss said. "I mean this is what I've been dreaming about since I started playing football."
Most experts view four Iowa seniors - Robert Gallery, Bob Sanders, Nate Kaeding, and Fred Russell - as likely draft picks. If you were placing a wager on a fifth Iowa player hearing his name called, Clauss probably would be the guy.
The Insiders.com draft gurus rate Clauss (6-5, 285) as their 36th best defensive tackle. Of him, they said:
A hard worker that does the extras off the field to become a better player, Clauss is a high motor defender with a good head for the position. Limited athletically, he must improve his strength to have a shot of starting in the NFL.
Clauss has improved his stock since the end of the season. That started with his workouts at the East-West Shrine Game, played in January in the Bay Area.
"It was a good experience," Clauss said. "We had some NFL Europe Coaches coaching us. The Pittsburgh staff was my staff. There was a lot of good coaching. It was a good chance to showcase what you've got. The practices are huge out there. That's more important than the games. They want to see what you can do. I had some good practices and played alright in the games. That helped."
A number of high-profile playmakers on the Iowa defense overshadowed Clauss during the last few years. Hawkeye defensive tackles keep blockers off of the linebackers. Their contributions often are overlooked.
NFL scouts sought to find out Clauss' abilities in other defensive styles. Could he play in a 3-4? Could he show his quickness in a 4-3?
"I had a chance to show more of what I can do," Clauss said. "I wouldn't change a thing about coming to Iowa. It's just a different style of defense than a lot of NFL teams play. We do a lot of squeezing and staying in our gaps. We don't play behind the reach block. We don't let the guards get to the linebackers. And that takes away a lot of your get-off sometimes. But jeez, we have a good defense. I'm not going to change a thing. It's just I had to learn out at that East-West game it was up the field the whole time."
Clauss compares favorably to former Hawkeye and current Green Bay Packer Aaron Kampman, who is a starter after being drafted in the fifth round in 2002. The Packers , the world champion Patriots, San Francisco, Cleveland and Denver all employ defenses that fit Clauss.
"I'd say in a lot of ways I'm like Kamp," Clauss said.. "And he's having some success. That gives me a lot of confidence. He's able to play at a high level, and he's 290-295. I watch him play, and he keeps guys off of him. He's doing good things, and hopefully I can do the same."
Clauss impressed NFL player personnel representatives during Pro Days at Iowa. He ran a 4.91 40-yard dash, 7.08 in the three-cone drill and 4.14 in the pro agility test.
"Based on the pro days and NFL.com, that put me in the Top 5 in all of those categories," Clauss said. "But that's not the combine. A lot of the guys ran at the combine, too, and I don't know all of their times. I'd say that I did good. I did way above average. I'm just doing what I can."
Clauss has placed a lot of faith in his agent, Jack Bechta, who also represents former Hawkeyes Tim Dwight and Eric Steinbach.
"He's very honest," Clauss said. "He's going to tell you like it is. He's not going to tell you that you're great or better than you are. He's going to tell you where you fit. And that's what I wanted. He's a guy that knows a lot of people in the front offices around the league. That helps."
"I'm getting good feedback. (Bechta) said that he's getting a lot of good feedback. I'm a guy that's going to fit into certain defenses and not into others."
Clauss is willing to take whatever route necessary to get into the NFL. But he'd prefer it to be through the draft as opposed to free agency. While he sees the value in free agents being able to choose the best situations for them, there's something special about hearing your name called during the selection process.
"That's the most positive thing that you can spin off of not getting drafted," Clauss said.. "Money in the sixth round isn't that much different than being a free agent. You get a bigger signing bonus, but it's not a huge deal. But if they draft you, they really want you. They don't draft people to just draft them. You're going to get into camp and you're maybe going to get a little different shake on your opportunity. I want to get drafted."
While he wants to be chosen in the draft, Clauss might take a pass on watching it.
"I've been instructed not to watch the first day or part of the second day because you're going to see guys go that you have differing opinions about," he said. "It's going to frustrate you. You've just got to keep an open mind and realize that teams that are taking certain people like them. Hopefully, a team will like you like the other one liked another guy. It's just a stressful thing. It's about 60 percent accurate from what I've been told. They say that the third rounders have been the most productive players in the league."
Clauss plays a position that has been coveted in recent drafts. Teams selected 48 defensive linemen last season, 24 of which were tackles or nose guards.
"Hopefully it will continue with that trend," Clauss said. "They're projecting four or five in the first round, four in the second round. I mean, that'd be great. Fourth or fifth round for me, I'd be very happy with that. I'm going to take it as it goes."
Whatever happens this weekend, Clauss feels fortunate to be in this position.
"I still like that stat where there are over a million high school football players in this country and out of that group of players, 300 get invited to the combine," Clauss said. "Out of that group, not including juniors, around 200 get drafted. That's pretty cool that I have that opportunity right now. Imagine 200 out of a million. That's pretty cool. That's pretty interesting. And I'm going to give it all that I've got. Like they say, NFL stands for "Not For Long." Your body can't hold up forever. You've got to use it while it's here."