UNI's Karter Schult ready for NFL Draft, an opportunity with someone

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CEDAR FALLS — Karter Schult got his degree from the University of Northern Iowa in December, signed with an agent and lived in that agent’s hometown of Dallas the rest of the winter and spring in order to go through monitored rigorous daily workouts.

We’re talking two to three-hour workouts.

He’ll be back home in Tripoli this weekend with family and friends to see if that extra work pays off with a pro football opportunity of some kind, somewhere. The NFL Draft begins Thursday and runs through Saturday, and the all-American defensive end hopes he’ll hear his name called.

If not, it’s all but certain he’ll sign with a team as a non-drafted free agent.

“I feel pretty good about it now,” Schult said. “I’ve just been waiting patiently. I’m ready for it to be over, I’m ready to start playing football again, that’s for sure.”

Schult went from Eight-Player prep ball at Tripoli to all-everything at Northern Iowa. He was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, a Walter Camp and AFCA all-American and the 2016 Buck Buchanan Award winner as FCS national defensive player of the year.

The 6-foot-3, 258-pounder had 17 sacks this past season, and is UNI’s all-time sacks leader. But those accolades get you nothing at the next level.

Schult is considered a tweener by many, not quick or athletic enough to play end or outside linebacker in the NFL, not big or strong enough to play tackle. Most draft “experts” see him as a late-round guy if he is drafted.

“With the draft, it’s very hard to predict,” he said. “I mean, I’ve heard plenty of things throughout the last three months ... I’ve heard late draft pick, sixth or seventh round, and I’ve heard undrafted free agent. That’s kind of the range. But how specific it is, is really hard to say.

“It’s still kind of like predicting the weather at times.”

Schult was not invited to March’s NFL Combine, having to rely on UNI’s Pro Day last month to show scouts his physical wares. He felt he performed well there.

“I thought it was really big because I didn’t get to go to the combine. That was really my only shot to show the critics and the scouts what I can bring to the table,” he said. “A lot of the critics, in the media or wherever, they’d always say I have productive seasons, but they don’t see the athleticism and the strength and what not to play at the next level. I think I showed I do have the athleticism and strength. I was really happy with everything.”

We’ll see how happy he is after this weekend. Schult said he is more than content to be a free agent, noting he can pick and choose what team’s system best fits his skills.

He said he has had interviews with about 15 clubs in the past couple of weeks.

“I think one of the things that has helped market me is my versatility. Being able to play a lot of positions,” he said. “As far as that goes, different teams see me in different positions. Some teams see me as a 4-3 defensive end, which, obviously I’m comfortable with, that being my natural position. Other teams see me as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, which I’m also comfortable with. Other teams believe I can play multiple positions, being able to play end or then maybe going inside and rushing the passer from there. It’s been a mixed bag, but I’m willing to do anything.

“For me, it’s just about getting an opportunity. As long as that comes, and I believe it’s going to, that is what is most important. I think I’ll make the most of my opportunity, whether it comes through free agency or the draft.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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