Bradley Fletcher is a throwback. Nah, he doesn't run out of the tunnel with a leather helmet and a knitted jersey. He's just an example of a guy that put in his time, waited for his opportunity and pounced on it when it arrived.
Really, it is how guys on successful teams at Iowa excel. It's not about showing up on campus, jumping into action as a five-star recruit and leaving after your junior season. Sure, it happens, but that is not the norm.
Fletcher is rising up the NFL Draft board much to the surprise of analysts who get paid to follow such things. Some of them place him as high as a third-rounder. That is saying something for a guy that didn't become a full-time starter until his senior season with the Hawkeyes.
"I've always felt that I could play," Fletcher said by phone Wednesday night shortly after his plane touched down in Philadelphia for his visit with the Eagles tomorrow. "It's just the way that things fall. Fortunately I'm able to be in a position right now where it's attainable, but we'll see what happens next week."
Fletcher's trip to the City of Brotherly Love comes after visits to Indianapolis, the New York Jets, and Atlanta. New England and Dallas flew into Iowa City to privately work out the Youngstown, Ohio native.
"I always dreamed of being able to play in the NFL," Fletcher said. "Right now, I'm just going into it with an open mind and we'll see what happens next week."
Fletcher said that most of the NFL visits are similar.
"They want to get to know the prospect," he said. "They want to know what they might be getting."
And Fletcher plays it straight.
"Oh, I just act myself," he said. "That's how I do it. I talk to them. I answer the questions. It's made me feel pretty good to this point."
The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Fletcher started four games as a junior in place of the injured Adam Shada. He opened at corner for all 13 games in 2008, ranking sixth on the team with 60 tackles to go with three interceptions, 10 passes broken up and 13 others defended.
Fletcher and fellow seniors on defense, Matt Kroul and Mitch King, helped Iowa to a 9-4 record and a championship in the Outback Bowl last fall. Coordinator Norm Parker said each one of them played his best football ever at Iowa.
"They weren't looking ahead to the draft or anything else," Parker said. "They were playing football for the moment at Iowa."
While Fletcher's rise up the draft charts has surprised some onlookers, Parker knew the ability was there.
"He had a chance because Bradley can run and he'll hit and he's got good size," Parker said. "He played awfully well last year."
Fletcher proved to be the most physical corner in the decade of Iowa football under Parker and head coach Kirk Ferentz. He opened the game at Minnesota last year with some crushing hits on the Gophers wide receivers and the home team folded up after the physical beating.
Through it all, Fletcher has remained humble. He stayed patient waiting for his turn at Iowa.
"It was just one of those things where I was just happy to be part of the team and to be able to compete in the Big Ten," Fletcher said. "I was just going to take my role at the time, and things have gone well."
Fletcher remained confident in his abilities even when he wasn't seeing game action.
"I just continued to work hard in the weight room to make myself a better player on the field," he said. "I watched a lot of film, which is very important. It's an accumulation of things along with good coaching that helped me to my senior year."
Fletcher made his mark at the NFL combine. He ran the 40-yard dash there in 4.47 seconds. He came back to run a 4.44 at Iowa's pro day to prove it wasn't a fluke. His vertical came in at 38 ½ inches at the combine and he rose to 40 at the pro day.
"It's been going good as far as the training that I've done to help out some of my performances," Fletcher said. "The feedback from what's been going on and the trips that I've made and the workouts I've had, they've all been good. It's been good so far. We'll see what happens."
While there are draft preparation specialists and speed camps all over the country for NFL prospects, Fletcher chose to work out with Hawkeye Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle.
Fletcher sounds very indebted to the Iowa coaches for putting him in this position. He is glad he leaves the Hawkeye program on a high note.
"I felt it was great, especially after a disappointing year the year before," Fletcher said. "For this past year to be able to win ballgames, go and play in a great bowl game and win the bowl game, it's been a good experience.
"It's a great feeling. As a senior, I felt that leaving the younger guys with something to work toward for this coming year was important. I feel like they'll be a good team.
"Iowa has been good to me ever since I came here. The help I've gotten at Iowa as far as the strength staff and the coaches has been great. The combine and all these things have gone good for me and that has me in the position where I'm at now."