Iowa's George Kittle loving every minute of Combine experience

For the record, he considers himself a 'dog'

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The crazy questions from the NFL Combine is low-hanging fruit. NFL personnel executives grill prospects for hours. There’s always going to be something a little strange, a little off the wall.

Iowa tight end George Kittle was asked Friday if he’s a dog or a cat. Really, it’s the eternal question.

“I got asked if I thought I was a cat or a dog,” Kittle said Friday at the Combine.

Which one are you?

“I’m a dog,” he said. “I’m going after that bone.”

Kittle said he heard some prospects did answer “cat.”

“That’s just not my take on it,” said Kittle, who’s often used the hashtag “KirksDawgs” on his Instagram account. Of course, that’s referencing Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and unleashing the tenacity, loyalty and whatever personality trait you want to attribute to dogs.

This has been Kittle’s approach to the Combine. His dad, Bruce, who played offensive tackle at Iowa and was in a Washington Redskins camp before he suffered a second ACL tear, told George to be himself, be honest and let his love for the game shine through.

This isn’t always easy at the combine. Kittle’s first day here began with a drug test at 3:30 a.m.

“I’d say the medical day was a long day, just getting poked and prodded was really weird. Just fun to talk to team doctors,” said Kittle, who caught 22 passes for 314 yards and four TDs. “I got a quick nap in after about eight straight hours of medical. It was a long day, but I’m enjoying every second that I’m here because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid. I have a pip in my step everywhere I go. I’m having a great time.”

There were tougher questions for Kittle.

He suffered a mid-foot sprain in mid-October at Purdue. That severely limited him for the next two games and knocked him out for two more in November. He returned for the season finale at Kinnick Stadium against Nebraska and caught a pair of TD passes. The only way that injury could heal was with rest, something that is hard to come by during the season.

Kittle was extremely happy to report that he has a clean bill of health.

“I’m learning what it feels like to be healthy again,” said Kittle, who trained for the Combine in Frisco, Texas, and who has signed with agent Jack Bechta. “It feels really nice recovering from five years of football. I’m feeling good and I’m having a great time actually.”

Iowa has had eight tight ends drafted during Ferentz’s 18 seasons at Iowa. Of course, that’s been an advantage, Kittle said.

“I’ve had to talk about outside and inside zone (running plays) with some coaches and I can draw those in my sleep,” Kittle said. “That’s really fun for me. Iowa football, it’s a prostyle system, we’ve got pro coaches. It really has prepared me for the conversations that I’ve had. Just being able to learn all the stuff I did from those coaches I think has given me a step ahead of some guys.”

Kittle arrived at Iowa as a 200-pound project. Part of what he had to learn and master playing tight end for the Hawkeyes was blocking. One of the questions Kittle took Friday was, “The label on you is ‘blocking’ tight end. Does that bother you?”

He kind of enjoyed that question.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I know I’m a versatile tight end, but if someone wants to label me as a blocking tight end, I’ll take that because I came in at 200 pounds and I wasn’t a blocking tight end. Over the past five years, I’ve put on 50 pounds and that’s something I’ve really put my mindset to and I’m proud of. If you want to call me a blocking tight end that’s fine, I can do other things as well.”

Kittle took his turn with media Friday about an hour before his teammate and former quarterback C.J. Beathard spoke. Both were asked about the change at offensive coordinator. Brian Ferentz was promoted from offensive line coach after Greg Davis retired in January.

Kittle said Brian Ferentz’s name has come up in Combine conversations.

“I think he’s going to do an amazing job,” Kittle said. “I’ve talked to some NFL coaches here who really respect Brian. I learned a whole bunch from him in five years. He really helped me on my technique and I have nothing but respect for him, and I know that they’re going to take big strides forward these next couple of years.

“... He has a lot on his resume and he’s a young guy. He’s got a high ceiling and he hasn’t even scratched the surface yet.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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