Hawk Blog: Road to NFL Passes Through Iowa

This week's edition of <b>The Hawk Blog</b> focuses on the NFL Draft, Iowa style. With fifteen players drafted by NFL teams over the past three years, including five former walkons, the Iowa football program is a veritable land of opportunity for high school prospects that want to get their degree and work for a shot at NFL glory.

April 25th, 2005

Does the end of the NFL Draft really signal the end of the college football ‘calendar'? I think one could make that argument.

Even though we will be discussing Class of 2006 recruiting here on HawkeyeNation.com over the course of the next year, much of the talk surrounding the 2004-2005 Iowa football calendar has now come to a close with the five Hawkeyes that were taken in the NFL Draft.

There will be a bit more chatter in upcoming days as we find out what Hawkeyes sign free agent contracts, but the book on last year is certainly heading towards its close.

Speaking of the 2005 NFL Draft, Iowa once again showed its prowess as an elite program, as Matt Roth, Jonathon Babineaux, Sean Considine, Tony Jackson and Pete McMahon were selected in the first six rounds.

That marked the third year in a row where five Hawkeyes were selected by pro teams, a new school record for a three-year period of time. Seven of those fifteen selections were taken in the first two rounds while five of the fifteen were former walkons.

That last bit of trivia might be the most telling tidbit regarding the success of the Iowa football program.

While Iowa is not an NFL football factory, its coaches know how to identify talent, develop that talent in the weight room and then coach that talent on the field as good or better than any coaching staff in America, period; while I am at it, end of sentence.

Think about this for a second; Iowa had more former walkon's drafted in the 2005 NFL Draft (2) than Penn State had ANY player drafted (the big ZIPPO). Penn State's recruiting class of 2001 was highly regarded and nationally rated, while Iowa's class was rated near the bottom of the Big Ten.

In fact, just six other college programs saw more players taken in this year's draft than Iowa's five.

Oklahoma led the way with 11, while Florida State had nine, Wisconsin and Virginia had seven and Georgia, Louisville and Stanford each had six players selected.

Iowa was one of five programs with five players selected, and that list also included USC, Auburn and Miami (Fla.). Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas and LSU had three apiece and once ‘mighty' Notre Dame had two players drafted.

To recap, just one Big Ten program produced more draft picks than Iowa this year, and that was Wisconsin. Iowa drubbed the Badgers back in November with the Big Ten championship going to the winner.

And oh by the way, Iowa won 10 games for the third season in a row and was ranked in the final Top Ten poll for the third season in a row, winning its second Big Ten title in the last three seasons.

They accomplished that with their 5th team tailback, due to injuries to the top four, and a running game that ranked 116 out of 117 teams.

If that isn't amazing coaching and leadership, then you find me a better example and we can discuss it.

None of this is gloating or smack, it's just the facts.

We wrote an article in our April 2004 issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine where we quoted some people familiar with NFL personnel saying that Iowa was gaining a reputation for producing NFL ready football players; players who have been coached and taught at a high level and who have trained with the best in the business, Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

It's no secret that Kirk Ferentz is one of the most respected coaching is all of college football, and it's also no secret that NFL minds respect his teaching abilities and those of his coaching staff.

I can't say for certain, but Pete McMahon's selection at the end of the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders might speak to that.

Oakland selected former Hawkeye Robert Gallery with the 2nd overall pick of the 2004 draft, and saw him all of last year in practice and in games. Gallery started most of the season for the Silver and Black at right tackle.

They saw how well coached he had been at Iowa, and I think they know that Gallery's ability was not solely due to his amazing desire and tenacity. A ‘skinny' tight end at 6-7 and 245-pounds coming out of high school does not turn into a 6-7, 320-pound road grader without a great Strength program and excellent coaching.

Did McMahon benefit from the ‘Iowa factor'?

McMahon is a fine football player in his own right, but every major college program passed on giving him a scholarship offer, so he walked on at Iowa. He played both guard and tackle for the Hawkeyes and he was coached for five years by Ferentz, as well as being coached by former Iowa offensive line coach and current Green Bay Packer assistant Joe Philbin and current Iowa line coach Reese Morgan. His body was sculpted by Doyle, and the rest is history.

Another testament to the ‘Iowa factor' is Sean Considine.

Again, every major college team passed on him, so he walked on at Iowa, paying his own out of state tuition. That is not cheap.

While at Iowa, he grew into one of the best special teams performers in recent memory and perhaps the best free safety the school has seen in some time.

He became the second former Hawkeye walk on free safety to be drafted in the last two years, as Derek Pagel was selected by the New York Jets in the 5th round of the 2003 NFL draft.

The other two former Iowa walkons to be drafted in the last three years include former All American tight end Dallas Clark (1st round to Indianapolis, 2003) and center Bruce Nelson (2nd round to Carolina, 2003).

The moral of the story?

The shortest route to the NFL might not be at the traditional ‘football factory' schools; it might be at Iowa, and you are probably going to get your degree along the way.

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