Ready to Tackle a New Position?

When first learned of the Dallas Cowboys' intention to bring the University of Idaho's Mike Iupati in for a pre-draft interview, the news raised a few eyebrows.

It's not that Iupati isn't a talented player — he is. In fact, the 6-foot-5, 331-pounder is almost universally accepted as the top guard prospect in this year's draft.

But one Valley Ranch source said it might be Iupati's versatility and willingness to play other positions that has caught the Cowboys' attention.

In the workouts leading up to the Senior Bowl, Iupati — who played left guard exclusively for Idaho — tried his hand at right guard and left tackle for the first time. If he is available whe the Cowboys pick in the first round, Iupati could, in wake of the team's sudden release of Flozell Adams last week, be picked to take over at left tackle. There always is a learning curve when trying new positions, but Iupati said he feels confident he can move to one of the new spots, if the team that drafts him asks him to play somewhere other than at left guard.

"That was my first set at tackle or right guard," he said. "I've just got to get it down — I'll be fine.

"A lot of people told me that I have to be versatile. They know that I am a pretty good athlete. It'll come natural to me. I just have to learn it."

For Iupati, the switch to right guard was not initially comfortable, but he said he picked up the position relatively quickly.

"I played right guard (at the Senior Bowl)," he said. "They wanted to see me there. It felt weird the first time, then I kind of got used to it."

The move out to tackle, however, represents more of an adjustment, although he is well aware that it also represents bigger paydays at the professional level.

"That's where the money is," he said. "I've been playing left guard all my career and it (left tackle) is something I have to learn."

Iupati said he is flattered to be considered the top player at his position, but acknowledged that his professional career and draft stock will be helped considerably if he can play right guard and left tackle well enough that teams view him as a versatile player who can fill a number of different roles within their offensive lines.

"I think it's pretty good to be the best offensive (guard), but being versatile will be a great deal and hopefully put me up the draft. But I think I will do a great job as an offensive guard."

Iupati, who has been working on his technique with legendary former NFL lineman Jackie Slater, said teams are not concerned about his weight, and if he ends up getting picked by Dallas, he'd fit right in with the Cowboys' massive line.

Whether he could end up replacing Adams at left tackle remains to be seen, but Iupati said whichever team picks him will not regret the decision.

"They're getting the whole package I think, character-wise, and the ‘physicalness,'" he said. "I have a lot of goals entering the league and I know I will (reach) most of them."

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