Former Hawkeyes perform on NFL stage

Iowa's tight ends and a few former defensive players have thrust the Hawkeyes into the NFL spotlight.

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Former Hawkeyes perform on NFL stage

Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers tackles George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 27 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers tackles George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 27 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

TNS

Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers tackles George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 27 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

TNS

TNS

Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers tackles George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 27 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

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Iowa is gaining a reputation around the college football world as “Tight End U.”

With George Kittle finding success and T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant beginning their NFL careers, the Hawkeyes have a lot to be proud of.

Those tight ends — along with a couple defensive players in Adrian Clayborn, Desmond King, and Ben Niemann — have stood out as Iowa alums during the 2019 NFL season.

TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Kittle is one of the players at his position the NFL has to offer, and he’s showed that the past two seasons.

Last year, Kittle recorded 1,377 receiving yards — the most by a tight end in NFL history — to go along with 88 catches and five touchdowns.

This season, Kittle has hauled in 46 passes for 541 yards and two scores.

Kittle has been injured since Oct. 31 and was inactive for San Francisco’s Week 11 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but he could play next week.

TE Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

Fant has put up solid production through 10 games this season.

The former Hawkeye has caught 27 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns for the Broncos this season.

His best performance came against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 3 when he put up 115 yards and a touchdown on three catches, including a 75-yard catch-and-run score.

He had a chance to be a hero against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 17, but a potential go-ahead touchdown pass fell incomplete, as the Vikings pulled off the victory.

TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

Hockenson finds himself entering this week on a nearly identical path as Fant.

The Chariton, Iowa, native has grabbed 26 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns, matching Kittle and Fant’s scoring production.

In the Lions’ season-opener against the Arizona Cardinals, Hockenson record six receptions for 131 yards and a score.

He only managed one catch for six yards against the Dallas Cowboys last week, but he could bounce back against a week Washington Redskins team on Sunday.

DE Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta Falcons

Clayborn has been productive for the Falcons for a good chunk of the season, but he’s heating up as the pages of the calendar continue to turn.

Clayborn has posted three sacks in the past two weeks, including a two-sack performance against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

He’s recorded four total sacks on the season to go along with two forced fumbles, which came in back-to-back weeks against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.

CB Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

King, a fifth-round pick in 2017, struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs in his last game, fumbling twice.

Other than that, he’s been an important piece of the Chargers’ defense and special teams.

King recorded 2.5 sacks against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, and he also forced a fumble in the same game.

LB Ben Niemann, Kansas City Chiefs

In his second season with Kansas City after entering the league as an undrafted free agent, Niemann has carved himself a role with the Chiefs.

He took his ability to a new level against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 6. Despite suffering a 19-13 loss at home, Niemann racked up a career-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops, before racking up six tackles in each of the next two weeks.

Niemann also defended a pass against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 22.

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