As the NFL Draft approaches, Matt Kroul is keeping things in proper perspective. He knows that this process will far from decide his future.
"It's the same old thing," the defensive tackle prospect from Iowa said. "I'm just an average guy that hopefully shows that he works hard and has energy on the field. I hope they see that. I hope I can bring that to the table when I go into camp. It's never going to be an easy road. I know that. I just have to keep working."
Kroul broke an Iowa record by starting 50 games in a row. The 6-3, 280-pound Mount Vernon, Iowa native earned second-team all-Big Ten honors this past season, but was, in many ways, overshadowed by fellow DT Mitch King, the conference's lineman of the year.
The NFL Draft Combine ignored Kroul as did the postseason all-star games.
"Basically, I just trained through that and got ready for pro day," Kroul said. "I put up good numbers, I thought. The numbers I needed to improve, I did. Other than that, I just took care of business and worked out to prepare for whichever camp I'm going to."
The snubs motivated Kroul through offseason training.
"I felt I proved some things (during his college career), but I guess to those making the decisions it wasn't enough," he said. "I'm not really a combine guy that puts up incredible numbers, so I just kind of kept thinking to do the things I always do, keep working. If you keep working, things will be alright in the end."
While King attended the combine and played in the Senior Bowl, Kroul met day after day for the last four months with Iowa Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle.
"It's been a little monotonous," Kroul said. "You just have to stay on it and keep training every day and definitely just keep your eye on the goal. That's to be on an NFL team and to be in a camp. It hasn't gone by fast by any means, but I'm just glad that this weekend is here finally."
This weekend's NFL Draft arrives with Kroul knowing very little about which teams might be interested in his services. His exposure to visits or personal workouts with teams has been minimal.
"Obviously, we got a lot of work done on pro day," Kroul said. "With 50 (Iowa) games on film, they kind of see what they're going to get. I hope that they like it, but from that standpoint (visits, personal workouts), there wasn't as much as some of the guys. There's still a little here and there."
Instead of focusing on where he might end up, Kroul has channeled his energy toward performing well if he gets into a training camp.
"You just try to be in the best shape of your life," he said. "With me not being 6-4, 315, that can just throw guys around it's going to be me being hard-nosed, hard- working, and have the football mind. I need to know the defense that we're running. I need to stay on task every day and I can't let up."
Kroul has solicited advice from several former Hawkeyes for his preparations for training camp. Two guys seemed to fit his profile the best, however.
"LeVar Woods is on our staff now, and I've been talking with him," Kroul said. "He was a free agent guy that made a pretty good NFL career with what he was given. It was the same sort of thing with Jared Clauss. It's the same position. We play similarly. I was just talking to him about what I need to do to best prepare myself for the next stage and the next step in the process. I talked to more people, but those are two guys that were in the same position that I'm going to be in."
Kroul plans on watching the draft at home with his parents and brother. He'll have the selection process on the TV but hopes for some distractions like playing cards.
"It would be awesome to be drafted," Kroul said. "You could say that you were drafted. A team is obviously seeing something in you to put a pick on you.
"The best case, yeah I would love to be drafted. But you have to plan for the other scenario and be ready to go when hopefully there are some teams calling you at the end of the draft."
At his size, Kroul knows he won't fit into the majority of systems in the NFL.
"Anybody going through the same thing that I'm going through is hopefully doing his homework," he said. "If I do have to make a decision at the end, as a free agent, hopefully I've done enough and know which team I best fit. It's definitely a consideration."