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INDIANAPOLIS — Dane Belton had a big decision to make after Iowa’s Citrus Bowl loss — and one he wasn’t eager to make.
“I tried to push it off as long as I can until I had to make the decision,” Belton said. “We had some long conversations in the days following the game.”
That decision was whether to declare for the NFL Draft. A week later, the answer was yes.
Two months into NFL Draft preparations, the former Iowa safety/linebacker’s versatility is a selling point for prospective NFL suitors.
Playing three years in Iowa’s hybrid “cash” position, Belton has essentially played as a linebacker, safety and slot corner. That’s along with his work on special teams, too.
“Teams try to ask me where I’m most comfortable at, and I just tell them, ‘I feel comfortable everywhere,’” Belton said. “I showed that during my tenure at Iowa.”
Belton’s ability to play at several different spots will likely be especially helpful considering how much teams deviate from base 3-4 and 4-3 defenses in the modern NFL.
The 6-foot-1 prospect has been meeting mostly informally with NFL teams while talking both as a defensive back and as a linebacker.
“It’s totally different at two different positions, so in my meetings, I’m describing two different things in depth,” Belton said.
One of those meetings didn’t require too much explaining of Iowa’s “cash” position. Tom Donatell, who played in that hybrid position at Iowa in the early 2010s, interviewed him on behalf of the Denver Broncos.
“He asked me about the defense,” Belton said. “I was saying a thing, and then he was saying the next thing I was about to say.”
Belton has the benefit of having spent significant time in two different position rooms, so he gleaned knowledge from both linebackers coach Seth Wallace and defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who also coaches defensive backs.
“Those guys are extremely knowledgeable in football,” Belton said. “I couldn’t do it without those guys.”
He specifically credited Wallace for helping a “young guy that’s still learning the ropes” with the techniques needed at linebacker to pick up blocks.
Back to train with Braithwaite
Belton will head to Iowa City on Monday to train during the two weeks leading up to Iowa’s pro day.
The Tampa, Fla., native described Iowa strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite as a friend and mentor.
Belton has been “able to talk about life” with Braithwaite, who was the assistant strength coach for Belton’s first year and then head strength coach for his second and third years.
“That was huge for me,” Belton said.
Name to watch at ‘cash’ position
Belton’s entry into the NFL Draft means the Hawkeyes will need to find someone new to fill the void at the “cash” position.
“I feel like we have a lot of guys in the defensive back room that can do that,” Belton said.
He specifically mentioned Sebastian Castro, who will be a junior in 2022, as one option.
“He’s very versatile,” Belton said. “Very aggressive player.”
Castro is far from a lock for that spot, though.
“The biggest thing about Iowa football and Coach Parker is you know he’s going to play the best player there,” Belton said.
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