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IOWA CITY — After five years of work at Iowa’s Hansen Football Performance Center, Jack Koerner is used to training for football.
But that’s not exactly what the former Hawkeyes safety has been training for since declaring for the NFL Draft.
“It’s definitely different,” Koerner said Monday after Iowa’s pro day.
Koerner instead needed to train for the 40-yard dash and other pre-draft drills.
“Every little incremental thing you do, it could result in a hundredth of a second,” Koerner said. “Those hundredths of a second obviously result in differences of large amounts of money.”
That training prepared Koerner for Monday’s moment. Iowa’s pro day gave the five-year safety and other former Iowa players a chance to show off their strengths with NFL front offices watching.
Thirty-one of the 32 NFL teams had representatives in Iowa City Monday. The only team to not attend was the Los Angeles Rams, but the Rams do not have a first- or second-round pick in the 2022 draft.
But now former Iowa players can move on to the next step in their draft preparations. No longer having what Koerner described as a “mental burden” means Iowa’s NFL Draft prospects can focus on football again.
“Obviously this stuff is really important,” defensive end Zach VanValkenburg said. “But then at the end of the day, you got to be a football player. So from this point on, that’s what’s important.”
With that change, some prospects who trained away from campus to prepare for the specific drills have returned to campus.
“What (Iowa’s strength coaches) excel at is training to be a football player, so this is the best place I can possibly be,” VanValkenburg said.
Linderbaum misses opportunity to impress scouts
Former Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, a projected first-round pick, did not participate in Iowa’s pro day, a team spokesman said.
Linderbaum also did not participate in the Senior Bowl or drills at the NFL Combine because of a mid-foot sprain suffered during Iowa’s loss in the Citrus Bowl.
While the All-American center returned for the final drive of the game, his recovery process has been an obstacle for draft preparations.
The Solon native can arrange his own workouts with NFL teams, but the lack of availability for the NFL Combine and Iowa’s pro day took away the two most convenient opportunities for scouts to see what he can do in the traditional pre-draft drills.
While media were not allowed in the event, team-released photos showed Linderbaum was the only prospect on Iowa’s initial 10-athlete participant list who could not compete in the event Monday.
Dilemma for combine participants
Iowa’s two NFL Combine participants to also be at Monday’s pro day — running back Tyler Goodson and safety/linebacker Dane Belton — had what Goodson described as “a very difficult” decision going into Monday’s pro day.
Which events are worth redoing? Which ones are better to skip?
Goodson, for example, was tempted to do the vertical jump again. The running back had a 41-inch vertical jump while training, he said Monday, but only had a 36.5-inch vertical at the combine.
He opted against a pro-day attempt, though, to avoid the risk of “maybe going from 36.5 to 34” if his legs weren’t “feeling right.”
Neither Goodson nor Belton redid the 40-yard dash after both improving their draft stocks in Indianapolis with times in the low 4.4s.
Importance for non-combine athletes
For the seven pro-day prospects who did not earn an invite to the NFL Combine, Monday’s pro day had added importance.
VanValkenburg said the pro-day festivities are important for “getting your foot in the door” with NFL teams although he also had the chance to meet with NFL teams at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
“I talked to quite a few scouts there,” VanValkenburg said. “I’m really glad I got to go there in lieu of the combine.”
But having members of 31 NFL front offices in Iowa City Monday allowed him to meet with more teams.
“I talked to a few teams here that I hadn’t talked to previously,” VanValkenburg said.
As for Koerner’s preparations in Florida for the 40-yard dash, it helped him finish in 4.51 seconds — a time on par with some NFL Combine invitees.
“Athleticism — and things like that — is some things I’ve heard that teams have knocks on me for, so I feel like I kind of put all those things to rest today,” Koerner said Monday.
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