Feb. 25, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Five years ago, he heard the same thing.
When Mike Daniels completed his high school playing career, he was looking for a place to play college football. He accepted an offer to play at the University of Iowa, and during his college career when he was asked why he chose the Hawkeyes, his answer was simple. "Iowa was the only Division I school that wanted me."
After completing a successful career this past season, Daniels has been training hard in preparing for the next step in his life, an attempt to play professional football. That next step begins Saturday, as Daniels takes part in the 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, along with six of his Hawkeye teammates.
"I'm incredibly excited," said Daniels. "It's like a breath of fresh air preparing for this. The work and preparation is just as hard, if not more so. I always look forward to moving on to the next step, the next phase of my life. It's always something to look forward to."
That attitude has worked well for Daniels throughout his career. Despite being told he was too small for Division I football, he had a solid career with the Hawkeyes. He started 21 games, including all 13 games as a senior. He recorded 32 solo tackles and 37 assists while leading Iowa in both tackles for loss (13.5 for 63 yards) and sacks (nine for 53 yards) for the second straight season. He was a steady performer throughout his career, helping the Hawkeyes win three straight bowl games before that streak was stopped with the loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl.
"You hear people say that you won't make it, you won't last in the NFL, but that is solely based on my size," said Daniels. "It's fun. It's the story of my life. I love to prove people wrong. It's the 'where did this guy come from story'. You gain more respect when you overcome obstacles than if you are viewed as a guy who will make it automatically."
After two months of preparation, Daniels is ready to pursue a professional career. He says it's a different preparation than preparing for a weekly opponent in the fall, but hard work just the same.
"Training for the combine is different than preparing for a football game," said Daniels. "Essentially, you are preparing for a track meet, a lot of running, a lot of jumping. There is a lot more emphasis on muscle endurance, rather than the quick explosion needed when the ball is snapped during a game."
Being one of seven Iowa players at the combine has its advantages, according to Daniels, who will be joined in Indianapolis by offensive lineman Adam Gettis, wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., linebacker Tyler Nielsen, defensive back Shaun Prater, offensive lineman Riley Reiff and offensive lineman Markus Zusevics.
"It definitely helps having other guys there from the Iowa program," said Daniels. "You look on the combine website; you see how many players are representing different teams. Some of the big name schools don't bring this many. We have a presence; it shows we know what we are doing.
"The last few years, the number of Iowa guys being selected, it's not by accident. We are doing things right. It adds that much more to your confidence level, knowing we have worked hard. That work is showing by the number of players taking part in the Combine and having success in the NFL."
The numbers support Daniels' statement. Iowa has had six players selected in each of the two most recent drafts, and both years that list has included a first round selection. Iowa was one of eight programs to have as many as six players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft and only USC (16) and Florida (13) have had more players selected the last two years. Iowa had 32 players on NFL active rosters when the 2011 NFL season began, a figure that ranked eighth best among all college programs.
"It's definitely a positive," said Daniels, of seeing the success of other former Hawkeyes. "You see guys like Pat Angerer, Karl Klug, who weren't high draft choices, having success. Some guys who came in as tight ends and developed in to great offensive tackles that are having success in the NFL. Players that have been told, 'you're too small, you can't do this or that', but they still have done well at the Combine; proved everyone wrong and are doing well in the NFL. You keep in contact with those guys, knowing they are part of the Hawkeye brotherhood."