April 4, 2008

Iwebema shows NFL potential

Some kids grow up with a football in their crib. Others, like Kenny Iwebema find the game later in high school and hope to make it their career. Later this month, the former Hawkeye will find out his fate in the NFL Draft, but after posting improved testing marks at Iowa's Pro Day, his stock appears to be on the rise.

After stumbling on his first 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, the natural instinct is to be a bit more guarded in the second run and Iwebema ran a 4.94, which wasn't what he had hoped. A few weeks later at Iowa's Pro Day, he got a second shot at the 40 and clicked off a 4.77, along with a 35 inch vertical and those numbers answered the questions that scouts had on his athletic ability.

"He has always had a good reputation with the scouts based on how he plays, but what his numbers show is that he is more athletic than what they might have thought. His numbers at the Combine didn't jump out at you, but the Pro Day numbers helped to ease some of those concerns," said CAA agent, Tracy Lartigue, who works with Ben Dogra, who is the lead representative for Iwebema.

Iwebema knew this was a number he had to reach and going to Arizona to train helped him to reach that goal.

"It was very important," Iwebema said. "That was the number I was trying to reach. That number is way better than the 4.9 I had at the combine. I really worked hard and that was the reason I went to Arizona."

Lartigue says that Iwebema showed great work ethic down at the training facility that CAA (Creative Artists Association) sends many of their players to before the NFL Combine and their respective Pro Days. For Kenny, it was a chance to train with some of the top prospects in the 2008 Draft and push himself to a new level.

"They really pushed me. I was down there with the best of the best out of the 2008 class and you can't help but get better when you are working with and against the best," said Iwebema.

CAA is very selective in the prospects they choose to represent each year. They look for NFL prospects who not only have potential on the field, but have high character off of it and generally the number they represent barely reaches double figures. This year for example they are representing prospects like: Jake Long, Matt Ryan, Derrick Harvey, Vernon Gholston, and Jonathon Stewart. Last year they represented the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year in Adrian Peterson and Patrick Willis. CAA also represents current NFL stars like Peyton and Eli Manning and former Hawkeye Bob Sanders, plus LeBron James in basketball and Derek Jeter in baseball.

Along with his football potential, Lartigue said one thing stood out when they started looking at Iwebema and that was character.

"His character really attracted us to him. He comes from a great family and is a great young man. The Iowa coaches did a terrific job with him getting him ready for this stage of his career and we think he is going to be an even better player in the pros than he was in college."

Lartigue says that they see potential and the scouts see it too. All they have to do is go back to his performance against Joe Thomas, who was drafted #2 in the NFL last year by Cleveland and established himself as a future star in the NFL. In his sophomore year, Iwebema logged two sacks against the former Badger and that is a tape that is making the rounds.

"We liked him on film right away in his sophomore season where he jumped off the film. Anytime you can get two sacks against Joe Thomas, you have to be a pretty special player. He was hurt most of his junior year, so that was a setback. He had his struggles in his senior year, but when he is healthy we think he has a lot of potential."

Iwebema knows that he can't just rest on the Joe Thomas tape and that he has to continue to show growth to go along with his potential.

"I had a real good game against him and it was probably one of my better games, along with a couple of games last year. He was a high draft pick and I was able to get two on him. It is something I am proud of, but it is also something I know I have to improve upon to take the next step."

According to Lartigue, the feedback they have received is that Iwebema could go anywhere between the 3rd to 6th round in the NFL Draft later this month. For Iwebema it is now a matter of waiting to hear when he name will be called and continuing to work as hard as possible at getting better to reach his potential as a player.

"I feel like I can only get better. I have been playing football for only seven years now, so all I can do is keep working to getting better, keeping working out, stay in shape, and hope for the best."

In the NFL, they talk about prospects and their floor and their ceiling. They aren't talking about building a house, but potential. A floor prospect is someone who may have reached their potential and may not have much room for improvement. A ceiling prospect is one who has a great deal of potential and that is what Lartigue sees with Iwebema.

"Some guys have maxed out, but with a guy like Kenny, he is just starting to jump off the floor and reaching towards the ceiling."

Stay tuned to HawkeyeReport.com with more features on former Hawkeyes as they wait to hear their name called at the NFL Draft.

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