Iowa football notebook: 2021 pro day

Iowa’s pro day was the only chance draft-eligible Hawkeyes had to perform in front of NFL scouts as the 2021 NFL combine was canceled.


Ryan Adams

Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette stiff arms Minnesota defensive back Chris Williamson during a football game between Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, November 16, 2019. Smith-Marsette had 4 catches for 43 yards in the game.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa football program hosted its 2021 pro day Monday with scouts from 30 NFL teams in attendance.

Unlike previous years, there was not an NFL Scouting Combine in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, making college pro days more pivotal than ever for draft-eligible players.

The NFL Draft is slated to begin April 29 and end May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I think, as much as anything for [scouts], the combine didn’t take place,” Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But in a typical year, most franchises would have two or three people through our operation during the course of a fall where they get to watch players and they get to watch them in August and maybe come and see them mid-season or maybe toward the end of the season. Watch them practice, they get a look at them, physically … and learn a little bit more by talking to people around the organization. So, their window is a little bit tighter just like ours in recruiting right now.”

“So, I think it makes this exposure that much more important than you alluded to,” Ferentz said. “I think we had five or six guys back from a year ago. Those guys didn’t even get to have a pro day, so we didn’t even have spring ball.”

With the unusual circumstances, draft prospects have had to do interviews with teams via Zoom and phone instead of in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the combine is usually held.

Iowa had five players — defensive end Chauncey Golston, offensive tackle Alaric Jackson, defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, and wide receivers Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette — invited to the combine even though the event is not happening.

“Very disappointed because that’s a dream for a lot of people, being able to perform at the combine, going to Indianapolis and doing the 40-yard [dash] at the white strip line and stuff like that,” Smith-Marsette said.

Jackson, on the other hand, said he wasn’t upset with there not being a combine. Along with Golston, Jackson participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January.

Smith-Marsette, Smith have chance to be first Hawkeye wide receivers selected in the NFL Draft since 2012

It’s been nine years since a wide receiver hailing from the University of Iowa has been drafted into the NFL.

The last Hawkeye receiver to be drafted was Marvin McNutt in 2012. He was selected with 194th overall pick in the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round.

Now, Smith-Marsette and Smith have a chance to buck the nine-year trend.

According to Pro Football Network’s March 7 NFL Draft projections, Smith-Marsette could be drafted 125thoverall by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Newark, New Jersey, native had four receiving touchdowns and 345 receiving yards in seven games in 2020. In 13 games the season before, he had five receiving, three rushing, and two kickoff return touchdowns. Smith-Marsette said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds Monday.

“Right now, I think starting off, I’ll be a special teams guy,” Smith-Marsette said. “Returner, whether it’s punt, kickoff returner, I’ll fit into that role. I feel like that will be my first role given at the next level, well not given, earned at the next level. One day potentially working into the offense.”

Jackson no longer a vegan

The offensive tackle went vegan before the 2020 college football season, but has since stopped that diet.

He said his weight is now 320 pounds.

“I felt like [the diet] helped me a lot, honestly,” Jackson said. “I got a lot of my strength back. I’m more fluid in my movements as well. I didn’t miss a step. I think it went really well for me.”

The Pro Football Network has Jackson projected to go to the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 217.

Golston showing versatility

When the Detroit, Michigan, native arrived at his first defensive line meeting at the Senior Bowl, he realized there were nine defensive ends and only a couple interior lineman.

To get reps in and to show NFL coaches he wasn’t scared, he played defensive tackle during the Senior Bowl.

“You never want to be a one-trick pony,” Golston said. “And I showed that I could play every spot on the line so coaches and then I also showed that I had a high football IQ. So, like when coaches want to talk about football, they’re like ‘Oh, he knows this terminology and stuff like that.’ Plus, the film shows I can perform at multiple positions at such a high level. So, my versatility is everything, and being able to fit into multiple, different schemes is what you want to do, especially when you’re interviewing for 32 different schemes.”

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