The message Iowa's Desmond King received from NFL evaluation

Chad Leistikow

CHICAGO — Instead of competing in NFL camps this week, you might find Desmond King working out in Iowa City’s sand volleyball courts.

The goal?

“Speed,” he said.

Before deciding to return to Iowa for his senior season, the all-America cornerback received that message from the NFL College Advisory Committee, which provides a clear-eyed projection to draft-eligible underclassmen that request it. “First round” is a tough grade to come by.

King had been tight-lipped about the evaluation he received in late December, but divulged the NFL feedback at Tuesday’s Big Ten Conference media days. Heck, why not talk about it now? It's motivation.

“They were concerned about the speed,” King said. “That’s something that I want to make sure that is right once I get into that situation again.”

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King’s certainly not slow. lists him as running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. Whether that’s accurate doesn’t matter for his pro future now. What the clock reads in the NFL Scouting Combine next February will be the big deal. The five cornerbacks drafted in this year’s first round (Nos. 5 through 25 overall) ran between 4.37 and 4.50 at the combine.

Running in heavy sand is part of the improved-speed plan for the 5-foot-11, 203-pound winner of the Jim Thorpe Award – given to college football’s top defensive back. That's part of his Chris Doyle-approved speed training, along with ladder workouts. The difference? Regularity.

“I work on it every day,” said King, whose knowledge of the game, physicality and instincts (which led him to eight interceptions last fall) are already proven strengths. “There’s going to be a difference if you keep working.”

He’s noticing the difference, out-running teammates he didn’t used to beat.

“We have these speed competitions, and I feel myself getting faster,” King said. “I’m winning reps. I’m beating out a lot of people.”

Way-too-early mock draft boards generally peg him as a 2017 first-rounder. (For example, has King going No. 8 overall to his hometown Detroit Lions.)

King’s stated reasons for coming back to school were to get his degree and complete unfinished business with his Hawkeye brothers. It would be a nice side bonus if, in the process, his 40 time goes down and his NFL Draft stock goes up.

“Me staying back another year,” he said, “put me in a position to be in the top three cornerbacks in the (draft).”