2010 NFL Draft: Why NFL Teams Love Iowa
During his press conference about second round pick Pat Angerer in the 2010 NFL Draft, Colts President Bill Polian had to throw in that one little tidbit.
"The fact that he's a Hawkeye doesn't hurt."
Polian knows that territory well, as Angerer will join other former Hawkeyes Mitch King, Bob Sanders, and Dallas Clark in Indianapolis. Colts coach Jim Caldwell is also a former Iowa player and assistant coach.
While Indianapolis has had an abundance of Hawkeyes for quite some time, the rest of the league is starting to appreciate Kirk Ferentz's players, as five other teams drafted Iowa stars this year.
Iowa's six players drafted ties it for the fifth most out of any school in the draft and puts it right up there with traditional powerhouses such as USC, Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
But why the sudden shift toward players from Iowa City? Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland put it best.
"We're in the business of developing football players. The faster they develop, the better a team we are. Character has a lot to do with that."
While the fact that Iowa runs a pro-style offense and that many of the Hawkeyes in this year's draft were solid athletes may have something to do with it, intangibles are the biggest reason that so many former Iowans end up playing and succeeding in the NFL.
As off-field issues became more frequent in the NFL, many teams started to look at the intangibles—character, work ethic, and leadership—more and more. It's the reason that captains with less athletic talent than their counterparts are chosen over players with unlimited athletic potential who get in trouble off the field.
"It's something I evaluate pretty heavy," Ireland said. "They're easier to coach. You get more out of them. They develop faster than the guys that aren't good kids."
Ireland picked one of those "good kids" in Iowa linebacker AJ Edds during the fourth round of the draft.
Edds wasn't heavily recruited out of high school, but was developed by Kirk Ferentz into a solid player and proved to be a coachable guy.
He is a perfect example of why the NFL loves Iowa. Kirk Ferentz develops the players into leaders before the NFL level so coaches and GM's like Ireland don't have to.
Like the Dolphins, other teams have begun to value character and hard work as well.
The Lions picked up Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey in the draft's third round last weekend, giving them a tough, but "undersized" corner who knows the value of hard work.
Spievey was forced to leave Iowa after his freshman year due to academics and went to Iowa Central Community College to get his grades back up. Once he finally got that aspect of his schooling straightened out, he faced an uphill climb in the Iowa depth chart.
"When I got dismissed, that kind of just shook me up and just woke me up, like, 'Man, you better take advantage of this opportunity that you have here,' " Spievey said. "I knew that if I had a chance to come back that it would be my last chance. After that, I would be out of football. I made sure I wasn't going to mess it up."
That attitude helped him turn into a second team All-Big Ten selection and shut down Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech's star wide receiver, in the Orange Bowl.
"When he came back, he came back with a different attitude," said defensive coordinator Norm Parker. "He was much more into studying film and that kind of stuff, the stuff you have to do to prepare to play a game, than he was before he left. All of a sudden, he believed a lot more of what you said than he did in his first go-around. He just wasn't mature. I think it helped him mature."
Like the Dolphins and Colts, the Lions valued character in their selection and go a mature, coachable player who will be concerned with football more than the luxuries of an NFL career.
"You won't ever see me out drinking," Spievey said. "I don't drink or smoke—ever. I like to be around family, people I know."
In today's NFL of DUI's and strip club assaults, that phrase couldn't be more exciting for a GM or a coach to hear, and it will give Spievey a leg up on "better sized" competition, who refuse to adhere to high moral standards.
Undersized they may be, Amari Spievey, Pat Angerer, and AJ Edds all beat the experts' odds in the 2010 NFL Draft. While they may not have the body type that most NFL teams want, their work ethics and character make them, and other Hawkeyes, hot commodities in the NFL.
As ESPN pointed out on draft day, the teams that win (i.e. Colts, Patriots, Saints...) are the teams that value character over combines. And as the trend of choosing high-character players continues in the NFL Draft, expect more and more Iowa Hawkeyes to hear their names called on draft day.
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