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AMES - Iowa State didn't have any surefire NFL players declare for the draft after the 2020 season.
The Cyclones finished their best season ever, which was capped by a convincing Fiesta Bowl win over the Oregon Ducks, and most Iowa State players elected to return.
Those who didn't were able to work out for 28 NFL scouts at Iowa State's Pro Day on Tuesday.
Running back and kick returner Kene Nwangwu, defensive end JaQuan Bailey and receiver Landen Akers all participated in the event.
Tight end Dylan Soehner went through Iowa State's Pro Day, as well, but he also was invited to the NFL Combine, so he did extra combine drills and interviews Tuesday.
The common thread for Nwangwu, Bailey and Soehner was their desire to show their versatility.
All of them have talent that they put on display at Iowa State, but for one reason or another, none are locks to be NFL players. They needed to show they have a diverse skill set so they can fit into whatever system drafts them or signs them.
For Nwangwu, that included showing off his impressive kick return ability as well as his running back skills.
'I think it's important just to be versatile,” Nwangwu said. 'I think that's what I showed today in the Pro Day. Whether it's being a kick returner or a gunner for punt coverage - I just wanted to make sure I showed that today.”
Iowa State fans have known about Nwangwu's burner speed for a while. Nwangwu was top-15 in the nation in average kick return yardage in three of his four years, including seventh nationally last season when he averaged 29 yards per return.
Nwangwu also had several 45-plus yard rushes this last season and tied with Breece Hall in yards per rush at 5.6.
Tuesday, NFL scouts learned about his speed. Nwangwu said several scouts had his 40-yard dash time in the high 4.2s.
The Athletic's NFL draft analyst, Dane Brugler, tweeted that scouts had Nwangwu's time in the high 4.2s or low 4.3s - it's up to the NFL to release the official time.
'I think I did well,” Nwangwu said. 'My goal was to go out and test well. I just wanted to show what I could do. Then I went out and caught all my balls and did my positional drills as well.”
Soehner, Iowa State's lone combine invite, also wanted to show his versatility.
At Iowa State, Soehner, at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, was Iowa State's de facto blocking tight end while Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen got more of the shine in the more glamorous pass-catching role.
Soehner described it as doing the dirty work.
'Man, that's just kind of what I do,” Soehner said. 'If there's a job that's typically labeled as ‘unfavorable' in the football world, then that's the kind of job for me. If the coach is like, ‘Man, who do we have to do this?' That's always been my job - that's my thing.
'Now, I honestly get more publicity out of college than I ever did in college. I wasn't the star with the name everywhere, I just contributed to the team.”
But on Tuesday, he wanted to show he wasn't just a blocking tight end who did the dirty work.
'The blocking and pass-catching drills were pretty much 50-50, split down the middle,” Soehner said of his combine and Pro Day. 'I think in that league, if you are a blocking tight end you still have to contribute in the pass game. Even if I find myself, which I most likely will, in that blocking tight end role early on in my career, they still use that guy to get underneath with shallow routes across the formation. Things like play-action passes, corner routes, so you've definitely got to be ready to contribute in the pass game as well.”
Bailey went down as Iowa State's best pass rusher in school history. The senior ended his career with a school record 25.5 sacks as well as a school record 44.5 tackles for a loss.
He wanted to show teams he can be a defensive end in a 4-3 or 3-4 system or an outside linebacker as an edge rusher in a 3-4 system.
'I'm trying to see where I fit perfectly at,” Bailey said. 'Trying to see exactly the position I'm going to play. Whether that's my hand in the dirt or actually standing up.”