IOWA CITY — Tuesday could’ve been awkward for Shaun Beyer.
The junior from Shellsburg and Cedar Rapids Kennedy grad has waited his entire life for this moment. He’s the No. 1 tight end at the University of Iowa. With the NFL draft coming up at the end of the month and with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant looking like first-round and maybe top 10 or 20 picks, you’re going to start hearing a lot about the Iowa tight end position.
Iowa tight end was a big deal before this draft, if Hockenson and Fant become the first tight ends from the same school picked in the first round, Iowa tight end will become an even bigger deal.
This is everything Shaun Beyer always wanted.
The easy way to start this journey is to show something on the field. A 20-yard seam route. A fade for a TD. A dominant block that springs a back on an outside zone.
Beyer had to start this with an interview. If he’s half as good on the field as he is funny, Iowa will lose another tight end early to the NFL draft.
“I’ve got a big advantage with my speed,” said Beyer, a junior who’s looking for his first career reception. “A lot of people have been comparing me to Noah. I don’t know if I’m that fast.”
Hey, there’s going to be a drop-off, right? Fant and Hockenson don’t earn the right to leave school early, have their decisions be somewhat blessed by head coach Kirk Ferentz (he did say he was disappointed) and fight over who’ll be the first tight end taken in the draft without doing big things for the Hawkeyes.
Beyer laughed when asked about a drop-off.
“I sure hope not,” he said.
At Kennedy, Beyer was a tremendous athlete. He played tight end, wide receiver, linebacker, safety and punter for the Cougars. He had 43 receptions for 853 yards and 11 TDs as a senior. He also ran track and made waves as a high jumper.
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That came up during his interview Tuesday. Beyer had to correct the question, which had his personal best at 6-foot-9.
“It was 6-7,” Beyer said with a laugh. “That was 40-something pounds ago.”
Beyer was recruited by Iowa assistant Reese Morgan, who retired in early March after nearly 19 years at Iowa. Beyer talked about how Morgan waited until after Beyer’s senior season before offering a scholarship.
That came up Tuesday.
“Coach Morgan ...”
Pause. Smile. Big laugh.
“ ... RIP,” Beyer said with a laugh. “Love him, love him.”
Before signing with Iowa in 2016, Beyer committed to North Dakota State. Of course, when just about any coveted player commits, that’s when you find out who’s really interested. Nebraska did make a late push for Beyer. The staff wanted him to go to Lincoln for a visit.
“The harder call for me was actually calling Nebraska that week because I was supposed to go there for a visit,” Beyer said. “I was supposed to go to Nebraska and be a recruit for them against Iowa. I don’t know if I could’ve cheered for the red guys.”
Beyer was asked about Wisconsin last season.
On a punt return in the third quarter, Iowa failed to execute a “peter” call. That’s what the returner yells on a short punt. That’s the signal for everyone to stop blocking and try to find the ball and stay away from it.
The “peter” call faded or didn’t ring out loudly enough and Beyer picked up a second block and lost track of the ball. His foot tipped it and the Badgers recovered. They scored three plays later to take a 14-10 lead.
It was one of those plays that remind you what a cruel game football can be.
“I mean, yeah, it sucked,” Beyer said. “It was just a communication error and that happens. Wrong place, wrong time. It was hard to flush because, you know, I felt like I let my teammates down. Everyone in the building was super supportive. It was hard to come back and look everyone in the eyes, but everybody was supportive. I was eager to show what I could do.”
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After that died down, Beyer ended up injuring his knee in practice during the run-up to Purdue last October. He suffered a meniscus tear. It cost him bowl prep and any chance at having a role in the Outback Bowl, when Fant had already declared for the NFL.
Tuesday was his first full-go practice since the injury. You don’t have to ask. He’s a third-year sophomore who has yet to catch a pass. He’s stepping into a position that will be heralded as one of the sexiest in college football when Fant and Hockenson, who are attending the draft, become millionaires maybe within hours of each other on April 25.
Beyer has plenty of motivation.
“It’s definitely motivation,” Beyer said. “When people are asking, ‘What are we going to do about tight end this year?’ It’s motivation. You’ve just got to use it the best way you can.”
If there’s an upside to losing two tight ends to the first round of the NFL Draft ... well, the depth chart opened up nicely. Beyer has done some things and seen some things. He’ll be eager, he’ll be cool. Beyer filled his notebook last fall during his apprenticeship behind two first-rounders.
“It was unfortunate with the injury, but I did use that time to take the mental notes about what those guys really were doing,” Beyer said. “How they paid attention to detail and how little things can make such a huge difference.”
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