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Former Iowa safety Amani Hooker details the skills he showed in college that NFL teams also covet. Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — For the record, Amani Hooker has a slightly different name for the new position he played on the Iowa defense last season.

Hawkeye coaches often referred to the hybrid linebacker/safety spot as “Star.”

Hooker said Monday he called it “Cash.”

And he’s about to cash in because of it.

Hooker was in town for Iowa’s Pro Day, a chance for former players to showcase their skills in front of scouts from NFL teams. He went through eight position drills, showing he could play the deep middle of the field if need be, that he could flip his hips, that he could break on the football.

That he’s good enough to warrant a draft pick as high as the second round next month.

If so, it will come partially because Hooker, a 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, showed during a sensational junior season at Iowa that he can handle things 5-6 yards from the line of scrimmage instead of the 12-15 yards deep that safeties usually play. That figure is in line with what NFL teams are looking for.

“You’ve got to be able to think fast. You can’t be just out there playing and using your athletic ability,” Hooker said of the skills he displayed while being named the top defensive back in the Big Ten Conference. “There could be a tight end coming at you. You need to get off the block. Or it could be a 5-10, 180-pound receiver that can fly.”

Hooker ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. He was so impressive there that he did not need to test again at Iowa’s Pro Day.

He is flying out for interviews with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings in the coming days and says NFL teams are telling him they see him as someone who can play nickel or safety. Plus, he wants to show that he can be a punt returner.

Hooker will be an intriguing player to watch on the second day of the NFL Draft on April 26. He said he has no idea when he’ll be selected. He’ll be at home in Minneapolis with family and a couple of friends.

“I don’t even want to know. I’ll just wait till the day comes,” he said. “I’ll just make sure my phone’s charged up.”

MORE PRO DAY: Chad Leistikow talks to Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson

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Former Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson departed after his red-shirt junior year and is projected as high as the second round in the NFL Draft. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

Anthony Nelson waits to see what weight he'll be

Defensive end Anthony Nelson also skipped the tests Monday and let his measurements from the Combine stand. He went through a few drills to show off the movement in his hips as an edge pass-rusher, something in high demand in the NFL.

At 6-7, 271 pounds, Nelson said he is waiting to see the needs of the team drafting him before deciding what to do with his weight.

“I can lose 10 pounds and stand up, or I can gain 10 pounds and play the ‘4’ or ‘5’ (technique),” Nelson explained. “My ability to do it on three downs is one of those things that separate me from a lot of guys in this class.”

He projects as a mid-round pick in a deep class of defensive linemen.

Nick Easley shows quick-shift ability and just wants an NFL 'slot'

Wide receiver Nick Easley said he ran 6.5 seconds in the three-cone drill and 3.8 in the short shuttle (he previously set a program record with a 3.77 in that skill). Those are impressive times for the 5-11, 205-pounder who figures to be lined up in the slot exclusively at the pro level. The ability to change direction and accelerate quickly off the line of scrimmage are paramount.

The Buffalo Bills are coming to Iowa City this weekend to conduct a private workout, Easley said. He is hoping to be a late-round draft pick or sign a free agent contract after leading the Hawkeyes with 52 catches last season.

“Just a guy who can be consistent and reliable in the slot, move the chains,” Easley said.

How strong? How fast? How high?

Each Pro Day produces some superlatives, and Monday was no exception.

  • Guard Ross Reynolds bench-pressed 225 pounds an eye-opening 27 times as he begins his quest to be the latest Hawkeye offensive lineman to make an NFL roster.

“I feel like I could have done more, though,” Reynolds said afterward.

Reynolds, who graded exceptionally well in his lone season as a Hawkeye starter, has been working out with the likes of Marshal Yanda, Austin Blythe and James Daniels. Pretty good company for someone with NFL aspirations.

  • Wide receiver/punt returner Kyle Groeneweg blazed to a 4.43-second time in the 40, the fastest of the day. Groeneweg caught only four passes in his lone season at Iowa after transferring from Division II Sioux Falls. He averaged 9.9 yards on 24 punt returns with one touchdown.

The former star sprinter at West Lyon wasn’t surprised by his fast 40 time. But he knows he’s a relative unknown in NFL circles.

“I’m hoping teams give me a chance for mini-camps,” he said. “From there, I just want to play my way in. I realize I can be on the bubble at this point of my career. I don’t have a ton of statistics.”

  • A backup fullback with a vertical leap of 39.5 inches? Only at Iowa.

Austin Kelly, at 5-11, 245 pounds, put up that eye-popping result Monday. He totaled 18 yards from scrimmage in his Hawkeye career.

“The biggest thing is to find somewhere I can stick,” said Kelly, who otherwise plans to go to law school in Chicago. “All it takes is one opportunity. That’s all I’m looking for.”

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