INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — NFL teams have talked to Allen Lazard about playing tight end. His answer is two words.
“I told every single one the same answer: Hell yeah,” Lazard said Friday at the NFL combine. “It doesn’t matter what I’m playing. I’m just so grateful and blessed to be here in this stage of my life. It doesn’t matter who wants me as long as they want me.”
That’s the right answer. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. Lazard has a big resume as a wide receiver. The former Iowa State Cyclone finished his career as ISU’s all-time leader in receptions (241), receiving yards (3,360), 100-yard receiving games (12), consecutive 100-yard games (4) and consecutive games with a reception (48).
Lazard’s Iowa State numbers are more impressive when you consider the turnover Iowa State had at quarterback during his four seasons. He played with six quarterbacks.
His goal at the combine is to show he has the skills to play wide receiver in the NFL. Actually, Lazard said his goal at the combine is actually much higher than that. He wants to prove . . .
. . . “That I’m the best receiver in this draft class, plain and simple,” Lazard said. “I want to go out there and compete. That’s something I’ve always done my entire life is compete. I want to be the best. I might not have all the statistics or the test numbers to be the No. 1 overall receiver or whatever, but when it comes to competition and playing on Sundays, I feel I’m ready.”
Lazard measured at 6-4 5/8 and 227 pounds. Today, he’ll run the 40-yard dash at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Lazard isn’t desperate about putting up a big, beautiful 4.3 40-yard dash. His size and strength (17 reps on at 225 pounds on the bench press Friday) and hands already make him an intriguing prospect, but the 40 is a competition.
You know how all of these guys are about competition. Lazard isn’t shying away from this.
Asked if plans to run the 40, “Absolutely.”
Goal? “Somewhere between fast and really fast is my goal,” Lazard said. “I’m just going to go out there and compete to my best ability tomorrow.”
Lazard did everything at Iowa State. He was the star of the offense for essentially four years. That hasn’t blinded him to what scouts will pick at with him, even beyond speed.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a weakness, but one of my lesser attributes would be efficiency in my breaks,” said Lazard, who’s trying to become ISU’s first draft pick since Jeremiah George to the Jets in 2014. “I think I need to clean up getting in and getting out of my breaks quicker to create that separation at the top of the routes. At this level, these corners and defenses are very detailed, so they’re going to be able to jump on anything you’re tipping off route-wise. I need to be more detailed and disciplined in my routes.”
Lazard is likely headed to the X wide receiver position in the NFL, but tight end? If push comes to shove, Lazard happily will put on a No. 40-something jersey.
“In high school, I played a whole bunch of different positions,” Lazard said. “I was recruited to Iowa State to play safety. I made that transition in high school more toward receiver. Me being a physical guy, that safety mentality has carried over to playing offense. I play very physically and very aggressively and that’s something you need to do as a tight end, being so close to the ball.
“Those guys are so big and strong, you can’t have a soft bone in your body to be able to play in those trenches.”
No one is going to accuse Lazard of being soft. Coming out of Urbandale High School, Lazard was a 4-star recruit with offers from Notre Dame and Stanford among others. Lazard followed his father (Kevin) and older brother (Anthony) and signed with Iowa State, becoming one of the highest-rated recruits in school history.
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Then, in Lazard’s first three seasons as ISU, the Cyclones finished 2-10, 3-9 and 3-9. Paul Rhoads, the head coach who recruited Lazard to ISU, was fired in 2015. Yes, he wondered about Iowa State at times.
“Absolutely,” Lazard said when asked if he thought he had made a mistake. “You can just imagine how hard it was those first three years and what it does to us as players,” Lazard said. “You’re working in the offseason and you’re grinding Monday through Friday. You’re running through the heat in the summer. And then you go out there and win only two or three games, you question it a lot, you know?”
That’s why 2017 was such a big deal for Lazard and all of the Iowa State seniors. The Cyclones finished 8-5 and beat Memphis 21-20 in the Liberty Bowl. Lazard was a monster in that game, by the way, tying a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches for 142 yards and the go-ahead TD.
Of course, he’s glad he stayed.
“I knew there was a bigger picture,” Lazard said. “I could see where the program was heading and what the players were trying to do there. To be able to stick it out, it taught me a life lesson. Stick to the process and keep fighting through it. Anything in life worth having you have to work for.”
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