George Kittle showed Saturday that he’s much more than just a blocking tight end.
The former Iowa Hawkeye was one of the standouts at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, turning in a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and an 11-foot broad jump that were among the best in his position group.
“Impressive workout for Iowa TE George Kittle,” tweeted ESPN writer Matt Bowen, a former Iowa and NFL safety. “Good footwork at the top of the route in position drills. Has the size (6-foot-4, 247 pounds) and technique to impact the run game as blocker. Will also have special teams value as a rookie.”
Kittle battled a foot injury in the second half of his senior season at Iowa and was limited to 22 catches for 314 yards and four touchdowns. If those numbers seemed pedestrian, what he did in Indianapolis was anything but.
Kittle’s 40-yard dash time was third-best among tight ends at the combine. This was also the fastest group of tight ends at the combine since 2003. For comparison, former Iowa and Indianapolis Colts star tight end Dallas Clark ran a 4.65 at the combine 14 years ago.
In addition, Kittle’s broad jump was third-best among the tight ends.
He also recorded a 35-inch vertical jump.
Kittle played high school football in Norman, Okla., but signed on with Iowa, where his father and cousin once starred. Bruce Kittle was an offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes and a co-captain of the 1982 Rose Bowl team. Henry Krieger Coble played tight end at Iowa and had one catch this fall as a rookie for the Denver Broncos.
George Kittle has long been highly regarded by NFL Draft experts such as Josh Liskiewitz of Pro Football Focus. He told the Register in December:
“I really thought he was the best tight end in the country coming into this year. He still graded out well as a blocker. Blocking tight ends that can run — there aren’t many of those guys. I think he’s going to play right away at the next level. ... I think he’ll be a better pro than he was a college player.”
Saturday was certainly a good first step in that direction for Kittle, a fun-loving athlete who credited an unlikely source for his performance.
“That @rihanna playlist pre combine got me in the zone,” Kittle tweeted afterward.