Iowa Football

Frustrations of the season in the rearview mirror, Iowa tight end Noah Fant is ready for takeoff

Snap-count scuffle, decision to skip the bowl came up, and Fant faced those questions head on

Iowa's Noah Fant at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa's Noah Fant at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., — Yes, Noah Fant will participate in Iowa’s pro day on March 25. That should answer at least some of your questions on the Omaha, Neb., native’s relationship with the program.

Against both Northwestern and Purdue last season, Fant, one of Iowa’s most explosive players, wasn’t in the game during crucial stretches of the second half. Following that up, head coach Kirk Ferentz used the term “specialist” in describing Fant.

The fan base and media took a chainsaw to the comment, and Ferentz acknowledged the chainsaws.

Here at the NFL combine this week, teams asked Fant about that, the social media storm that was kicked up by his older brothers and how he negotiated a tricky situation.

Fant didn’t tell his family, particularly his older brother Willie, to stop on social media, but he did make a point.

“He’s just a big brother caring,” Fant said Friday at the combine. “He’s just a guy who doesn’t want his little brother being slighted in any type of way. He’s proud of me. He’s a proud big brother. I just had a talk with him and said, ‘Hey, I get it, I get where you’re coming from, but that’s just frustration, you’ve got to let that go.’ Haven’t had a problem since.”

He knew conversations with coaches were coming and he didn’t shy away.

“I had to grow up as a man and say, ‘What am I going to do from here?’” Fant said. “I went and talked to coaches, had those conversations and those are good conversations. I got feedback from them and just kept working, kept pressing forward. As I was saying before, my mantra for the season was taking advantage of the opportunities given. I feel like I did that and I feel like I was able to produce.”

And here Fant is now.

In the last two seasons, Fant has caught 69 passes for 1,013 yards and 19 TDs, a school record for tight ends. The production is one thing in Fant’s favor. Pair that with athleticism that should blow some hair back at the combine (Fant put up 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press Friday) and that’s why Fant is projected in the first round. The Patriots, Packers, Broncos and Lions are among teams to visit with the 6-4, 249-pounder.

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No, Fant didn’t decide to enter the draft after hitting 42 inches in the vertical during testing with Iowa last summer. He did, however, think about it.

“It flashed and then I buried it right back down,” Fant said. “I had a season to focus on at that point. After the season, after the Nebraska game, I sat down with coach Ferentz and my parents and coach (LeVar) Woods and also coach (Kelvin) Bell. I talked to them about what they thought, what they say. Could they see me transitioning into the NFL? It was very enticing. I ended up taking it and running with it.”

The snap-count scuffle came up with NFL teams and so did the fact that Fant choose not to participate in Iowa’s bowl game. He announced his decision in early December.

“Honestly, it was one of those decisions that wasn’t easy,” Fant said. “The chance of getting hurt, the chance of getting an injury. Also with the way we handle bowl games, it’s like another spring ball for bowl prep that could be tough on the body. It was a tough decision overall, but I talked to coach Ferentz, I talked to my family and talked to my brother (Chris, the head football coach at Omaha South High School) that I’ve very close with and made my decision.”

Fant might be in competition with fellow former Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson to be the first tight end picked in the draft. That’s part of Fant’s mission here.

He went into last 2018 as a preseason all-American. Hockenson won the Mackey Award. Fant and Hockenson are teammate buddies and all of that, but that strips away when you’re competing.

Being the No. 1 TE is something on Fant’s to-do list.

“In my eyes, people haven’t seen me since the Nebraska game (Nov. 23),” Fant said. “This is my moment to come and say, ‘Here I am, this is what I can do.’ The chips will fall after that, but I know I’m coming to this combine to give it my best effort and put up the numbers I want to put up and be happy with that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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