INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Josey Jewell almost immediately shed his “2-star” status when he walked onto the University of Iowa campus.
The Decorah native had two offers, Iowa and Northern Iowa, and you know the rest. He became the first three-time team captain in Iowa history, put together three 120-plus tackle seasons and was a consensus all-American as a senior.
Saturday at the NFL combine, it was kind of back to 2-star for Jewell. Exactly what he expected and maybe how he likes it.
“There’s always going to be questions,” Jewell said. “They’re going to think maybe I’m not fast enough. Maybe side-to-side, you’re not good enough there. Whatever, you’re not tall enough, you don’t weigh enough, there are going to be questions with everybody, but those are a couple questions I’ve had. I’ve gone through that adversity coming into college ball and, hopefully, I’ll do it again coming into the NFL.”
There really are no secrets here. The “weaknesses” paragraph for Jewell in his NFLdraftscout.com report is short. Here’s the knock: “Not a top-tier athlete with clear stiffness in space and limitations laterally. Struggles to stick with shifty running backs out of the backfield.”
Jewell acknowledged that, yeah, teams are going to wonder about speed and agility. There might not be a better pure tackler in Lucas Oil Stadium. Jewell ended his career as only one of three Hawkeye players ever to record over 115 tackles in three different seasons.
There are no helmets at the combine. It’s sprints, lifts and jumps. Jewell has worked out in Iowa City. His goal in the 40-yard dash is somewhere in the 4.6-second range, but he admitted he doesn’t know exactly how it’ll turn out. Iowa doesn’t test the 40 because of the stress on hamstrings.
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“It’s a different kind of test,” Jewell said about the combine. “It’s not going out on the field and tackling people. You’ve got to show out on other stuff. You’ve got to show out on the 3-cone, be able to tell them you’re good at changing direction, the 40 is big for everybody, too, to let them see your overall speed.”
On the other hand, in conversations with teams, Jewell said they love his instincts and how he flows to the ball, zeroing in on ball carriers, leveraging running lanes and leadership.
Yes, intelligence and work ethic still count for something.
That’ll come out in meetings with teams. Jewell, who sat out of the Senior Bowl because he lost seven pounds fighting an illness after the Pinstripe Bowl, had formal interviews with the Lions and Cowboys. What you’ll see on TV on Sunday is Jewell answering the athleticism questions or keeping those questions open.
“I talk a little bit about productivity, dependability and then leadership,” Jewell said. “And just try to explain to them through the past three years, two years being captain, three years, whatever people are saying about it. They change it back and forth. I don’t know what it is anymore.
(Try to remember he’s talked with all 32 NFL teams in like two days. Jewell was a three-year captain. The combine talkfest can leave your head spinning.)
“And just go with the leadership on that part,” Jewell said. “Just to understand that the Mike (linebacker) is supposed to be the leader on the team and hopefully they understand I can be a leader coming off to an NFL team.”
Jewell measured at 6-1, 234 pounds. On Saturday, he put up 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (no, as you can imagine, he wasn’t totally happy with that and will do it again at Iowa’s pro day later this month).
Size did come up as a potential strike against.
“It doesn’t really matter how big you are, just matters what you do when you’re on the field,” Jewell said. “So whether that’s your communication, your leadership or your productivity, those things are pretty huge and I think those things talk more than size.”
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Jewell is a from a small town in Iowa. Smallish town in Iowa. One of the questions he fielded this week was if he’d be able to adjust to a big city.
“There’s one guy from New York who asked me about it quite a bit, how I would adjust, if I can adjust,” Jewell said. “And the answer to that is yeah.”
Is there ice fishing in New York? Jewell got a chance to get out on the ice in Sully this winter. Two bluegills.
A reporter from San Francisco talked to 49ers tight end and former Hawkeye George Kittle about Jewell. Kittle said Jewell has a serious on/off switch.
“When you get on the field you’ve got to put your brain toward that, you’ve got to focus on that,” Jewell said. “It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. It’s all football. It’s all technical stuff. It’s all trying to get everybody else out there better, communicating and trying to be a team leader.”
The stakes are high. Jewell is once again having to prove himself. The switch is on.
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