Iowa Football

Daviyon Nixon and Chauncey Golston go pro, Zach VanValkenburg stays a Hawkeye

Nixon, a junior, is an early entry in 2021 NFL Draft

Iowa defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg (97) tackles Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) during the Hawkeyes' win
Iowa defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg (97) tackles Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) during the Hawkeyes’ win over the Nittany Lions in State College, Pa., on Nov. 21. (Barry Reeger/Associated Press)

Two-thirds of Iowa’s all-conference defensive line says it will move on to the National Football League.

Iowa junior defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon and senior end Chauncey Golston announced Wednesday they are entering the 2021 NFL Draft. Senior end Zach VanValkenburg said he will play one more season for the Hawkeyes.

Nixon had little if anything left to prove as a pro prospect, becoming a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year after a dominant 2020 season.

He tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 5.5, had 13.5 tackles for loss, and anchored one of the best defenses in the nation.

“I am very happy for Daviyon and his family,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said, in a statement. “I know he put a lot of time into making the choice to take this step. Since he arrived on campus, Daviyon put in a tremendous amount of work to be a difference maker for us on defense and in the locker room. A year ago he was a part-time player, and today he leaves our program as the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year and will likely be a consensus All-American. His teammates love him and his coaches will miss coaching him on and off the field.”

Golston went from undersized, relatively unknown recruit to a first-team all-Big Ten player, recording 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season.

VanValkenburg announced via Twitter Wednesday that he was returning for another season with the Hawkeyes.

Under the NCAA’s rules for 2020, all players get an extra year of eligibility if they want it due to the pandemic. While Iowa seniors Alaric Jackson, Brandon Smith, Shaun Beyer, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Nick Niemann and Mekhi Sargent have declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, VanValkenburg is returning as an accomplished starter.

He was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media. He had 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, and he recovered four fumbles. He was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 16 for his performance against Minnesota.

VanValkenburg was a graduate transfer from Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan in the summer of 2019.

Sargent announced via Instagram that he will forgo another season of eligibility at Iowa and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Sargent signed with Iowa out of Iowa Western Community College and was a significant contributor for the Hawkeyes.

He rushed for 432 yards and 5.7 yards per carry this season, and had 20 career rushing touchdowns.

Beyer, a former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep, had his best season with Iowa, being used heavily in two tight-end sets with sophomore Sam LaPorta. Beyer had 11 receptions in seven games, including his first career touchdown.

He has been graded highly all season in Pro Football Focus’ national tight end rankings.

Banwart also has announced via social media that he is entering the NFL Draft after earning second-team all-conference honors this season.

“I want to say thank you to the 21 seniors for their dedication and commitment to our program,” said Ferentz. “These men have all contributed in some way to make our program better throughout the course of their careers. Some will chase professional football dreams, while most will move on to their chosen careers. I am confident that they will apply the lessons learned on our campus and in our program to make an impact in the future. I wish them all the best.”

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