Iowa Pro Day takeaways: Ihmir Smith-Marsette answers questions, Daviyon Nixon's reflection and more
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Ihmir Smith-Marsette doesn’t give anyone a chance to ask about it.
The former Iowa wide receiver jumps out in front of the question he knows is coming. NFL personnel are notorious for their thorough research and sometimes invasive inquiries, but Smith-Marsette doesn't mind addressing his OWI arrest from early November. The litany of Zoom calls in preparation for the NFL Draft has given Smith-Marsette ample chances to stress his arrest was an isolated incident.
"I tell them first and foremost, that is not a display of who I am," said Smith-Marsette, speaking Monday after Iowa's on-campus Pro Day. "I made a poor choice, a poor decision. It was a mistake. I've talked to a lot of people about it. Once is a mistake. You do it twice, that's on you not learning from it.
"It goes to show I was able to bounce back from it. I try not to get in my own head about it and just prevailed through the whole season — didn't cave to the backlash and none of that. Just being able to stay strong and tell them that's not who I am and that's not someone I want to be portrayed as. I just keep it real with them and tell them first before they even get to it."
Once that interview hurdle is cleared, the remaining Smith-Marsette chatter is full of positives. Fully recovered from the high-ankle sprain suffered on an end-zone flip in Iowa's season-ending win over Wisconsin on Dec. 12, Smith-Marsette said he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at Monday's event. The 6-foot-1 wide receiver also reportedly had a 1.44 10-yard split, further showcasing the back-breaking speed Smith-Marsette possesses.
While looking to become Iowa's first wide receiver drafted since 2012, Smith-Marsette's first NFL breakthrough will likely come on special teams. He shined there throughout his Iowa tenure in becoming one of the Big Ten's all-time best kick returners.
Smith-Marsette looks to be a day two NFL Draft pick, currently slotted 87th on Pro Football Network's big board that's constructed by chief draft analyst Tony Pauline. With a versatile profile and ownership of past tribulations, Smith-Marsette appears to be trending the right away again.
"Today I heard I did a really good job getting in and out of the 40. I came with the right mindset, and I showed up, basically," Smith-Marsette said. "I did what I had to do.
"I've been having a lot of Zoom calls and still have a whole bunch more to do. We're just going to keep pushing forward from here."
Vegan no more for Alaric Jackson.
After an in-season experiment with a vegan diet, Alaric Jackson is back to eating meat. The former Iowa left tackle said he's regained the weight he lost, checking in at 320 pounds, but had a positive review of his dietary change.
"I feel like it helped me a lot, honestly," Jackson said. "I got a lot of my strength back. I was more fluid in my movements as well. I didn't miss a step. So I think it went pretty well for me."
Jackson's NFL Draft stock has been seesawing for some time. He generated first-round buzz alongside Tristan Wirfs ahead of the 2019 season, only to see that campaign derailed in a hurry. Jackson suffered a right-knee injury on Iowa's second offensive series of the season, and although he missed just three games, the Detroit product played the rest of the year at less than full strength.
A 2020 rebound plus Senior Bowl participation brought back some of that draft buzz, as Jackson was named a first-team all-Big Ten selection in starting all eight games at left tackle. But where exactly he'll land on draft weekend remains up in the air.
"As far as moving around to other places on the line, I can do it day one (in the NFL), honestly," said Jackson, who worked at several other offensive-line positions outside of left tackle at the Senior Bowl. "Training for it every day — you can't be a one-trick pony — so you've got to be able to move around a little but. Someone goes down, you've got to be able to step up. So I'm positive I can do that day one."
Daviyon Nixon has an answer ready for those questioning his quick rise.
Iowa's biggest splash come NFL Draft weekend will likely come via the defensive line. Perhaps no one maximized the Big Ten's abbreviated season more than Daviyon Nixon.
After taking a circuitous route through junior college, a redshirt season and a year spent outside the spotlight, Nixon surged to consensus all-American status in 2020. He has a response ready for those who peg him as a one-year wonder.
"My argument to that is you come to Iowa for one thing, and that's to grow as more than just a football player but as a human being," Nixon said. "Our coaches always talk about staying the course. There's always a next man in, but you have to wait that time to be the next man in.
"I've started my entire life growing up. I've always been the kid that's dominating. But being here and not starting (until 2020), I'm still on the practice squad trying to embarrass the No. 1s so that way when they go out to the game, that's the easiest day they have in a week. So there's more than just starting and playing. For me, there's more to it than getting that fame. It's about contributing to the team even when you're not on the field. I feel like coming here and starting right away, I don't think I would've learned the same things that I did."
Noteworthy Pro Day performances
Ihmir Smith-Marsette (WR): 6-foot, 181 pounds; 4.43 40-yard dash; 4.20 20-yard shuttle; 10-feet, 4-inch broad jump.
Brandon Smith (WR): 6-foot-1, 218 pounds; 39.5-inch vertical jump; 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump; 21 reps on bench.
Nick Niemann (LB): 6-foot-3, 234 pounds; 4.45 40-yard dash; 4.14 20-yard shuttle; 6.67 three-cone drill; 10-feet, 1-inch broad jump.
Barrington Wade (LB): 6-foot-1, 232 pounds; 4.60 40-yard dash; 4.39 20-yard shuttle; 6.94 three-cone drill; 9-feet, 10-inch broad jump.
Daviyon Nixon (DT): 6-foot-3, 313 pounds; 4.90 40-yard dash; 4.70 20-yard shuttle.
Chauncey Golston (DE): 6-foot-4, 269 pounds; 4.79 40-yard dash; 36-inch vertical jump; 9-feet, 11-inch broad jump; 22 reps on bench.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.