Pro Day takeaways: King answers '40' questions, Daniels shows speed, Ekakitie ponders CFL
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Desmond King was aware of the questions about his speed. He was amused by them, even.
The former Iowa cornerback – a potential early-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft – declined to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine on March 6, citing an abdominal strain. That led to three weeks of speculation.
King said he was never concerned about it, though, and put the questions to rest at Iowa’s Pro Day on Monday when he ran a 40 that was in the 4.51-4.52 range.
“No more 40,” he laughed and told reporters afterward. “It’s football season now. It’s time to get back in football mode.”
King, a two-time all-American, projects as a second- or third-round choice at the April 27-29 draft. He said he has spoken to representatives of all 32 teams and will spend his next weeks flying around the country for more intensive interviews. The question now is what his long-term position will be – outside corner, nickel corner, safety, punt and kick returner, or some combination of all those.
King said he is willing to do anything to get on the field. In addition to running the 40 Monday, he participated in defensive back drills and fielded punts and kicks for the assembled scouts at Iowa’s football complex.
“If you want to throw me on offense, then go ahead, take a shot at it. I don’t mind going out there catching a couple balls at receiver, running the ball. It just shows how versatile I am,” King offered good-naturedly.
King said he was relaxed heading into the day, confident he would run a good time. And he was certainly in a buoyant mood afterward, relieved to have the testing behind him so he can focus on his future.
He made it clear that it was the film he accumulated during a stellar four-year Hawkeye career that will hold the most sway with NFL teams, not a set of individualized drills.
“Your film is your ammo,” King said. “That’s something that you put down on tape that people can see. … The eye in the sky don’t lie. I feel like I have really good tape.”
No running for Beathard
Quarterback C.J. Beathard didn’t attempt the 40 again Monday, still nursing a hamstring injury. That was also why the two-year Iowa starter didn’t run at the combine.
“It’s frustrating, because I know I’m faster than a lot of teams think I am,” Beathard said. “I’m a fast guy. I would like to go out and show what my 40 time would be. But at the same time, the quarterback position, (not running) is not as detrimental as a receiver or cornerback.”
Beathard did throw for scouts Monday, and said he felt good doing that. He has “quite a few” individual workouts scheduled with NFL teams coming up, he said. He has projected as a potential late-round pick.
“I’m confident I will (get drafted),” Beathard said. “I’m not worried about it. I know I’ll get a shot at some point.”
Daniels can scoot
The most encouraging 40 time of the day belonged to running back LeShun Daniels Jr., who said he ran it in 4.5 flat. That may have surprised fans who considered Daniels more of a workhorse – with senior-to-be Akrum Wadley the thoroughbred – in last year’s Iowa backfield. Each gained more than 1,000 yards rushing, but Wadley was decidedly more electric.
Daniels, though, said his 40 time was what he expected from himself.
“I would have been disappointed if I wouldn’t have got there,” Daniels said. “That didn’t surprise me, but obviously I was plenty happy with it.”
Daniels will likely pursue a free-agent path to the NFL. He said he’s gotten interest from “numerous” teams.
“They love the way I run the football,” said Daniels, who gained 1,898 yards rushing as a Hawkeye. “They want to see me catch the football, because it wasn’t something that I really did all that much here. It’s something that I can continue to improve on, but it was never anything that was like really a weakness of mine.”
Daniels has hired Neil Cornrich as his agent, giving him the same representative as his former coach, Kirk Ferentz. But he knows he’s far from the spotlight as the draft nears.
“Just kind of doing my business in silence. It’s natural territory for me,” Daniels said of his NFL prep. “Any team that decides to take a chance on me, they’re going to get a good player.”
Back to Canada?
Defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie didn’t take up football until his sophomore year of high school up in Brampton, Ontario. He transferred to Lake Forest Academy outside Chicago to hone his skills, and was good enough to get Iowa’s attention.
Still, he was a little-used backup until his senior year, when he recorded 39 tackles and no sacks.
It’s that lack of mileage that may be his strength now, Ekakitie said.
“I think I’m an athletic big guy,” said Ekakitie, 6-foot-3, 290 pounds. “I’m still pretty young in the game. I haven’t been playing since I was 5 or 6 like some guys have. I know I have a lot of room to grow, and I know there’s a lot that I still haven’t learned about the game that hopefully I can pick up on pretty quickly in the future.”
Ekakitie is hoping to get invited to some NFL mini-camps after the draft. But if those don’t prove fruitful, he’s perfectly happy to return home to play in the Canadian Football League, even if he never paid attention to those games while growing up and still can’t name all nine teams.
“There’s not many places in the world where they’re going to offer you money to do something that you love,” Ekakitie reasoned.
It helps Ekakitie that CFL rules require teams to keep 21 Canadian citizens on their 42-player rosters.
“They always seek out Canadian-born players that hopefully can come in and play right away,” Ekakitie said. “I actually looked at all the results from the CFL Combine. There’s not too many guys that can match the size and the physicality of the American players.”
Another Croston to NFL?
Offensive tackle Cole Croston is also looking for a free-agent path to the NFL. His father, Dave, parlayed a standout Hawkeye career into a one-year stint with the Green Bay Packers in 1988. And Iowa is known for producing professional offensive linemen.
“Most guys out of Iowa have an opportunity at some point,” said Croston, who was pleased to record a 32-inch vertical leap Monday.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m going to chase it for a few months here. I do have a finance degree from the University of Iowa, and you can get a job with that anywhere.”
Croston said he has scheduled some visits with NFL teams but is hoping to get more calls after Monday. His selling point to those teams?
“I came in here at 225 pounds and I really didn’t think I was any good,” the Sergeant Bluff-Luton graduate said. “I was able to start here, put on 90 pounds. I think I’m still growing and I can still get better."