INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Akrum Wadley said a nice hello to a few local reporters and then, with NFL logos all around him and the NFL Network broadcasting live just a few feet away, got down to business.
You saw Wadley joke and smile and laugh a lot in his five years as a Hawkeye. That was then, this is the NFL audition.
“Iowa, they prepared me,” Wadley said. “I feel like I’m really prepared and it’s not much of a difference.”
First question was about weight. Of course, the first question was about weight. It was the mountain Wadley and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz climbed regularly as Wadley matured and became one of the best running backs of the Ferentz era. Wadley is third on the list of Ferentz running backs with 2,872 career yards. He also had 28 TDs.
But weight still is a thing. Wadley hit 194 at the combine weigh-in. He had a difficult time hitting and maintaining 190 at Iowa. Now? His goal for Iowa’s pro day is 200.
“I know I could start at the next level,” Wadley said. “It’s not a big deal for me. I feel I could do it all. I could be a three-down back. I could also be a complementary back. I could be anything I need to do, as long as I’m helping the team out, we’re winning games.”
With Wadley, you have to separate his early career, which he admitted Thursday at the NFL combine was rocky, from his final two seasons, when he was much more mature and could see the stakes.
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Part of the combine for NFL personnel people is figuring that out in a 15-minute formal interview.
“Almost every interview I do, coaches ask about, how is your relationship with coaches? And Coach Ferentz is a really good guy, great coach and I always thank him for giving me the opportunity to play at Iowa,” Wadley said. “I don’t have anything to hide. I always talk about how when I first got to college I made some poor decisions. You know, young. And my relationship with Coach Ferentz was bumpy at times, mainly the first two years. Over the years I started to mature up and our relationship grew better.”
Wadley has been busy this week. He said he’s talked with all 32 teams. He did mention formal interviews with the Bills and Dolphins.
“We’ve been talking about what type of person I am,” Wadley said. “Talking about my family. They’ve been testing my knowledge for football. I broke down a few defenses, a few of the run plays we do at Iowa.”
You kind of already know Wadley’s best selling points for the NFL. He’s going to challenge defenses in space. But what is Wadley telling teams?
“I always like to say my vision, quick feet,” he said. “My ability to make defenders miss in the open field. I’ve got really good hands out of the backfield. Tough. I can go in between tackles, I can go outside. Everything. I don’t ever stop talking.”
The question of value came up. Wadley didn’t do a ton of special teams work at Iowa, but he probably did more than you think. Last season, he returned nine kicks for 271 yards. He dramatically impacted Iowa’s Pinstripe Bowl victory over Boston College with five kick returns for 171 yards (34.2 average).
“I also played gunner a few years back when I was trying to earn my spot on the offense,” Wadley said. “I was the hold-up guy on punt returns, so it’s not like I never played special teams. I played special teams.”
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Friday is workout day for running backs. No predictions from Wadley. See? All business now. He did say his goal is a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, but he was nervous about jinxing himself.
“It’s not a big stage for me, just so happy and thankful to be here and I’ve got a lot to prove,” Wadley said. “I’ve been working hard before here, training. I’m just hoping everything pays off.”
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