INDIANAPOLIS — After the Holiday Bowl celebration was over, Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley started sprinting to his spot in the NFL.
One of his first decisions was to contact renowned quarterback coach Tony Racioppi, who is part of the Test Football Academy team. Test Football has been around for 20 years. Racioppi, based in New Jersey, is TFA’s quarterbacks guru. Their alumni list includes Joe Flacco and Brian Hoyer.
One of the first questions during Stanley’s nearly 20 minutes on the podium Tuesday at the NFL combine was about accuracy and consistency.
“I’m going to do what I’ve been doing the last month and a half,” said Stanley, who weighed in at 235 pounds, around eight pounds lighter than he played as a senior. “I’m doing everything I can to help fix my mechanics. Just be more efficient with my lower half and be more consistent with that.”
Let’s focus on the “fix my mechanics” part. Here’s how important Stanley thought it was to “fix” — again, his word and he used it at least twice — his mechanics: He passed on invites to the Senior and Shrine Bowls, where he would’ve been able to showcase his skills for NFL scouts and coaches.
Eventually, this question became what he felt he wasn’t getting at Iowa.
“They worked a lot on footwork. It wasn’t really wasn’t the width of your base, it was more timing things with your feet,” said Stanley, who ranks second at Iowa in career passing TDs (68), passing yards (8,302), completions (673) and pass attempts (1,115). “The explanation on why you missed throws wasn’t always there.
“(Quarterbacks coach Ken) Coach O’Keefe is a great coach. He’s great with Xs and Os, but I just felt I could improve a little bit more if I went with someone who specifically worked with mechanics for quarterbacks.”
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Stanley came up from Menomonie (Wis.) High School without any formal training from a QB-specific coach. After four years at Iowa, he wanted to seek that out.
“I was just throwing a football like I would throw a baseball when I was a kid,” Stanley said. “So you know, I’m really kind of learning to be more quiet with my lower half use my hips to generate power.”
Every quarterback at the combine is asked about Patriots’ Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady. They probably always will. Stanley steered the question into his conversation on mechanics.
“I feel that my throwing motion now is fairly similar to his,” Stanley said. “Always keeping two feet in the ground, being balanced and being straight up and down and that’s something that I wanted to continue to work on and try to get to.”
Another Iowa-New England comparison is offensive scheme. Of course, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz came to Iowa after five years in New England. Stanley said Iowa and New England do compare scheme-wise and that is one thing that is working for him in meetings here (Stanley said he’s met with 25 teams on an informal level). Stanley said spring practice 2017, when Greg Davis retired and Brian Ferentz was promoted, things slowed down and he was able to pick up the system.
The Iowa QB doesn’t get to look to the sideline. His eyes are buried in presnap reads. Stanley added Tuesday that it doesn’t stop post-snap, either.
“They’ll ask, ‘Hey, what if this happens?’” Stanley said. “I’ll say, ‘I have the freedom to do this, I can do that.’ I feel having that freedom really helps me on the next level because I’ve already done a lot of the things they’ll ask quarterbacks to do.”
The mechanics thing is in the front of Stanley’s mind. Between the combine and Iowa’s pro day in March, he hopes for another trip out to New Jersey for more work.
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“Really, the biggest thing is staying more vertical,” Stanley said, repeating the instruction he’s received. “Before, I was pitching a baseball, that’s how it’s trying to throw the football really. I was bending at the waist and I was trying to use my off elbow to try to generate power.
“And now I feel that I’m more upright. My stride is a little bit shorter. I’m trying not to overstride and sail balls and then just staying straight up and down really rotating using my hips to generate power.”
You can check out Stanley’s progress on Racioppi’s Twitter account, which is filled with videos of Stanley going through drills. You’ll also be able to tune into the NFL Network on Thursday to see if this dive into mechanics paid off.
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