IOWA CITY — The 2018 season for Iowa tight end Noah Fant felt like a farewell performance all along.
In June, Fant looked like an NFL player doing interviews at a college campus. He wore a black T-shirt with sunglasses tucked into the collar. He also wore diamond ear rings the size of hubcaps.
This also was the same day that Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley told everyone about Fant’s blistering pace in strength and conditioning last summer.
This was the day we learned Fant put down (up?) a 42-inch vertical jump.
“He’s breaking all the conditioning records,” Stanley said. “He’s got three and he’ll probably get the fourth one whenever he gets a chance to run a 40. In the weight room, he’ll probably break a lot of those records for tight ends, too.”
Fant was on the cover of Phil Steele’s preview magazine. He was coming off a year in which he led the nation for tight ends with 16.47 yards per catch. He tied for the nation’s lead among tight ends with 11 touchdown receptions last season.
Fant, an Omaha, Neb., native, had a plan for himself.
“My plan was to come here and do big things with the opportunity that I had. I feel like my career so far has gone all right. I can keep improving on it though,” Fant said.
Fant said that in June. Today he said it’s time for the NFL.
The 6-foot-5, 241-pounder announced on social media Friday that he will skip his senior year at Iowa and enter the NFL draft.
Fant thanked everyone, from God to family to the Iowa football and academic support staff.
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“Thank you, coach Ferentz and coach (Chris) Doyle for the opportunity and honor to represent the black and gold — for helping me grow physically and mentally — more than I thought possible,” Fant wrote.
Fant won’t play in Iowa’s bowl game, which hovers between the Citrus, Outback and Holiday bowls and which also won’t be known until sometime Sunday.
Fant and Ferentz met on Wednesday.
“We are disappointed Noah will not be finishing the season with his teammates,” Ferentz said in a statement. “He is a tremendous athlete and we wish him the best as he pursues his goal of playing in the NFL.”
Weird road this year on this front. Fant disappeared from late-game situations against Purdue and Northwestern. After fielding questions on the topic, Ferentz mentioned Fant as a “specialist,” and then against Illinois, Fant played the first 25 snaps of the game.
Beyond that, Fant had an enormously productive career in Iowa City. He finished 2018 with 39 receptions for 519 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown receptions. Fant has 1,083 career receiving yards and 19 career touchdown catches — the most by an Iowa tight end and third-best among Big Ten tight ends. Fant this week was named first-team All-Big Ten by league coaches. The Iowa-NFL tight end migration might not end with Fant, who was a Mackey Award semifinalist.
Sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson said last week that he wants to hear from the NFL draft advisory board before deciding on his future. Hocknenson, who is a third-year sophomore and thus draft eligible, is a Mackey Award finalist with 46 catches for 717 yards and six TDs. Hockenson also was first-team all-Big Ten and was named the league’s tight end of the year.
Defensive end Anthony Nelson also said he wants to hear from the draft advisory board before making a final decision. Safety Amani Hooker, who won the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year award, also would be a realistic candidate for early NFL entry.
After 2017, cornerback Josh Jackson and center James Daniels passed on their senior seasons and entered the draft. They were selected in the second round.
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Players are likely starting to receive their draft evaluations. The deadline for entry into the 2019 NFL draft is Jan. 14.
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