Notebook: Cyclones garner NFL interest at Pro Day

Kene Nwangwu runs drills during Iowa State’s Pro Day on March 23 at the Bergstrom Football Complex.

Sam Stuve

With a little over a month before the 2021 NFL Draft, former Iowa State Cyclones and now-NFL hopefuls worked out in Iowa State’s Pro Day on Tuesday at the Bergstrom Football Complex. 

A total of 11 Cyclones had workouts Tuesday, with 28 out of the 32 NFL teams and a total of 30 scouts in attendance. 

The group of former Cyclone players was a mix of players from this past season and some players who couldn’t work out last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling Pro Day.

Following their workouts, Kene Nwangwu, JaQuan Bailey and Dylan Soehner spoke to the media about their workouts and the pre-draft process.

Nwangwu says he’s trying to show versatility

One of the Cyclones’ all-around athletes from a season ago, Nwangwu, said he wanted to show his versatility and selflessness at Pro Day in front of NFL evaluators. 

“I think it’s important to be versatile, and I think that’s what I showed at the Pro Day today,” Nwangwu said. 

Out of the 28 teams in attendance, Nwangwu said he worked out for the Arizona Cardinals in a separate workout and spoke with the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers on the side. 

In the 2020 season with the Cyclones, Nwangwu was used in different ways, serving as the team’s main kick returner as well as the backup running back behind Breece Hall.

As the backup running back, Nwangwu rushed the ball 61 times for 339 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 550 yards on 19 kickoff return attempts (28.9 yards per attempt, his career-best). 

Although he was the predominant kick returner for the Cyclones in 2020, Nwangwu said most of the workouts he did Tuesday weren’t focused on kick returning but rather balance, agility and body movements.

He also said he did some running back drills and ran a few wide receiver routes. 

One of the workouts Nwangwu said he did was the 40-yard dash and unofficially clocked in at 4.29.

This could significantly improve his draft stock. The fastest official 40-time was run by John Ross, who ran a 4.22 ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft.   

Nwangwu also did the three-cone drill which he unofficially clocked in at 6.75, the vertical jump which he reached 35 inches, the broad jump which he was reported to reach 10-feet-5 inches, he was reported to do 22 reps of bench press and did the pro shuttle  run which he had a time of 4.15

His (as well as the other players who worked out) unofficial times and numbers were put out by Iowa State on Twitter.

All field times are unofficial. 

Bailey confident after his workout

Bailey, one of the linchpins of the Iowa State defense in recent years, also worked out at Pro Day and said scouts were impressed with his feet and his speed as a defensive lineman. 

“I feel like I did everything really well,” Bailey said. “[This year’s pre-draft process has] been kind of weird, but it’s fun to compete against other guys at different schools.”

He said his mindset was focused on putting his best foot forward, showing the ability to compete and have fun.

At pro day he unofficially ran a 4.72 40-time, a time of 7.31 in the 3-cone drill, had a 9-foot-2 inch broad jump and 19 reps of bench press at a unspecified weight.

All field teams are unofficial.

Throughout his tenure at Iowa State, Bailey has been one of the most productive players on defense. 

He led all defensive linemen at Iowa State in 2020 with 38 tackles, he was second on the team in 2020 in tackles for loss with 13 and had seven sacks en route to being an All-Big 12 First Team (Coaches) member, an AP Third Team All-American as well as an FWAA and Phil Steele First Team All-American. 

Bailey, Iowa State’s all-time tackle for loss (44.5) and sacks (25.5) leader, said the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers were among the NFL teams he had talked with. 

Soehner’s drills a 50/50 split 

The tight end room at Iowa State got a lot of press in the 2020 season, and Soehner was part of it. 

Soehner served more as a blocking tight end for Iowa State, while Chase Allen and Charlie Kolar were more the pass catchers amongst the three.

Soehner said in regards to being a dirty-work tight end, “There’s a job that’s typically labeled as unfavorable in the football world,” Soehner said. “That’s kind of the job for me. If a coach says, “Man, who can we have do this? Dylan will do it.'”

In the 2020 season, Soehner caught 18 passes for 205 yards and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention for the second season in a row.  

According to Soehner, the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints talked with him at Pro Day. 

Soehner also conducted his combine workouts on Pro Day because he was an NFL Combine invite, but it was announced in January that the event that would normally take place in March had been canceled. 

The workouts he had on Tuesday were “about 50/50” between blocking drills and passing catching drills, Soehner said.

“In that league, if you’re a blocking tight end, you still have to continue in the passing game. Even if I find myself in that blocking tight end role early in my career, they use that guy to get underneath in passing routes. I have to be ready for that,” Soehner said.

At pro day he unofficially ran a 4.78 40 yard dash, ran a time of 7.22 in the 3-cone drill, had a 9-foot-4 inch broad jump and had a 31 inch vertical.

All field times are unofficial. 

Despite being a two-time All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Soehner said he has received more publicity outside of college than he did while playing for the Cyclones.

NFL Draft date

This year’s NFL Draft runs from April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio.