Akrum Wadley ponders weighty NFL decision

Mark Emmert

TAMPA, Fla. — Akrum Wadley was a one-man show on an Iowa offense that had little else to show in Monday’s 30-3 Outback Bowl loss to Florida.

Was it his last show in a Hawkeye uniform?

“I’m still thinking about it,” the junior running back told reporters afterward. “All my concentration was this game, and I still have to talk with my parents and coaches. And that’s that.”

Junior tailback Akrum Wadley was the only Iowa offensive player who found daylight Monday against Florida, picking up 136 yards. Now he must decide whether to come back for a senior season or try his luck in the NFL Draft.

But it wasn’t just that.

The junior running back gained 136 of Iowa’s 226 yards of offense against the sixth-ranked defense in the nation. That’s 60 percent.

He showed his shiftiness early with a 27-yard run through the right side of the line. He showed his toughness later, breaking tackles for an 18-yard gain on a screen pass on a third-and-15 play in which everyone in Raymond James Stadium knew he was getting the ball.

Wadley finished with 1,081 rushing yards to lead the Hawkeyes this season, joining senior LeShun Daniels Jr. (1,058) as the only Iowa tailback duo to each hit the 1,000-yard mark in one year.

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So the logical question is: What’s left for Wadley to prove at the college level?

“Win a bowl game,” he answered after a pause.

Wadley said he believes he’s good enough to play in the NFL now, a tempting option for a running back who must think about wear and tear on his body and the brief timeline of the typical career for that position.

Wadley said he has received some feedback about his NFL prospects, but declined to say what it was.

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“I don’t want to discuss it right now. I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Wadley said. “It’s going to be a couple days (before he addresses his future). Talk it over with my family. The coaches, they’re all going to have my back, and they’re going to play a part in me making a big decision.

“It’s a strong running back class this year. I feel like if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I feel like I can train with these backs, and it is what it is.”

Iowa cornerback Desmond King faced a similar decision a year ago. He chose to come back for his senior season, to earn a college degree and try to pick up that elusive bowl victory. He achieved one of those two goals, and said he wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to offer Wadley advice.

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“That’s his decision. I’m going to support him 100 percent,” King said, before providing some thoughts on Wadley’s skill set.

“He’s very, very athletic. He’s a shifty back. You have to keep your eyes on him at all times. He can go one way and cut back the other way. It’s just a blink of an eye,” King said of Wadley. “I think he’s NFL-ready. He’s a back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands. And I’m pretty sure if they put him back there on special teams as a kick returner, he can do the same thing.”

Wadley acknowledged he would need to put on some weight to play at the next level, a point that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also made this winter. He is listed at 191 pounds, but struggles to hit that mark.

The affable New Jersey native wanted to stop all the discussion about himself, though.

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“My New Year’s resolution was just to talk less about myself and give credit to the (offensive) line and definitely (fullbacks) Brady (Ross) and Drake (Kulick),” Wadley said.

“I try not to use the words ‘me, me and I’ a lot. Try to take the shade off of me.”

It’s a nice thought. But when an athlete performs as well as Wadley did this season, and in this game, it’s impossible to pull off.

Wadley was the story of the Iowa offense Monday. He’ll be the story in the coming days, whatever he decides.