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5 more Hawks called to NFL

[ 0 ] April 30, 2011 |

The Ricky Stanzi highlight reel popped onto ESPN’s NFL draft telecast Saturday afternoon and included a clip of the Iowa quarterback tossing a touchdown pass to Tony Moeaki.

There might be more of those in the years to come.

The Kansas City Chiefs picked Stanzi in the fifth round Saturday, ending Iowa’s 18-year draft drought at quarterback and reuniting him with his college tight end.

“He, of course, raved about it being a great organization with a great coaching staff, great people around it,” Stanzi said. “For me to get the chance to play here and be on the team is just really exciting.”

Stanzi was one of five Hawkeyes selected Saturday and six overall during the three-day draft, matching the total Iowa had last year when it established a school record for the seven-round era.

All three of Iowa’s senior defensive linemen found homes. The Minnesota Vikings selected Christian Ballard in the fourth round and Karl Klug went to the Tennessee Titans one round later after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the No. 20 overall pick Thursday on Adrian Clayborn.

The Philadelphia Eagles took offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde in the fifth round and the New York Giants picked safety Tyler Sash in the sixth.

Ballard had been projected at one point as a possible first-round choice, but he slid down draft boards in recent weeks. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Ballard had been given “second-round grades from the entire league, but the reason he fell was for a recent off-the-field issue.”

Reports surfaced last week that Ballard tested positive for marijuana in February at the NFL combine. He declined to directly address the subject during a conference call Saturday with reporters, saying, “That’s confidential.”

“I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I’m going to look to the future,” Ballard said. “I’m a Viking now. Whatever happened in the past is behind me. Now all that’s on my mind right now is trying to make the Vikings a Super Bowl team.”

Ballard flipped back and forth from defensive end to defensive tackle during his career with the Hawkeyes. He said the Vikings indicated they want him to play an interior position.

Klug might be a candidate to shift from defensive tackle to defensive end with the Titans. He was relieved Saturday just to know he wouldn’t have to wait through the league’s uncertain labor situation to find a team.

“To tell you the truth, I was really anxious just waiting for my name to be called because with the lockout this year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be drafted,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to wait until June or whenever the lockout ended. I was just happy to hear my name called.”

The last Iowa quarterback to hear his name called in the draft was Matt Rodgers. That was 1992 when the Buffalo Bills picked him in the 12th round.

Stanzi played his way up draft boards as a senior, completing 64.1 percent of his passes and throwing 25 touchdowns.

“What I like is the improvement from junior year to senior year,” Mayock said. “He’s got excellent intangibles. … I like him a lot. He loves the game of football, he gobbles tape, he’s got all the intangibles — 25 touchdowns against six interceptions as a senior and prior to that, as a junior, was 17 and 15, so he’s a kid who kept getting better.”

Kansas City’s quarterback play improved last year, as well. Matt Cassel threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2009, his first season with the Chiefs. He upped his touchdown count last year to 27 — including three to Moeaki — and cut his interception total to seven.

“You come in and you want to work hard and whatever the coaches ask me and whatever my role has to be, that is what I will do,” Stanzi said. “I am just excited to be a part of the team.”

Vandervelde was the second offensive lineman selected by the Eagles. Philadelphia picked Baylor guard Danny Watkins with their first pick.

“Of all the teams that I had a feeling about, they were definitely at the top of my list,” Vandervelde said. “I could not be happier than I am right now.”

Sash skipped his senior year with the Hawkeyes to enter the draft after three seasons as a starter at strong safety and two as an All-Big Ten selection. The Giants took him with the No. 198 overall selection — the same pick used by the St. Louis Rams in 2000 to take another Iowa strong safety. Matt Bowen played for seven seasons in the NFL.

“He’s got good size; he runs good enough; he’s not your top-flight athlete, but the guy’s got a feel for the game,” Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross said of Sash. “Instinctive. Excellent ball skills. Thirteen career interceptions in three years is phenomenal. He’s got more than top corners combined. The guy’s good in the box, we hope he’ll play (special) teams for us — he’s got that kind of toughness about him, reckless with his body.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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