T.J. Hockenson, Other Hawkeye Underclassmen Checking into NFL

December 2, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Players Support Noah Fant’s Decision

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Noah Fant already is leaving Iowa early for the NFL. Other Hawkeyes with remaining college eligibility could follow.

Coach Kirk Ferentz recently sat down with a group of these guys and discussed the possibilities. Quarterback Nate Stanley, safety Amani Hooker and tight end T.J. Hockenson told the media here at the football performance Sunday that they were in it.

The Hawkeyes gathered with the press after learning that they were playing No. 18 Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa. In addition to preparing for the game, Ferentz and his draft eligibles would be seeking guidance from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

“The NFL put a really good packet out this year, I think just a very good informational packet. I shared it with the players and their parents. It’s an educational process for all to go through and gather good information, reliable information from people that really know the Draft and can project it and know the Draft board this year,” Ferentz said.

“It just gets down to a personal decision for the players involved. We’ll let the process play out and see where it all goes.”

Defensive end Anthony Nelson and offensive left tackle Alaric Jackson were not present at Sunday’s press conference. They could also get a look at what the advisory board has to say about them.

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Hockenson seems like the most likely candidate to follow his fellow tight end, Fant, into the NFL Draft. The redshirt sophomore leads the Hawkeyes in catches (46) and receiving yards (717) to go with six touchdown grabs, second on the squad. He’s the Big Ten’s tight end of the year and the Ozzie Newsome Award winner, given to the nation’s top player at the position.

“I think money is completely out of the equation. That doesn’t really motivate me at all. Playing this game, if you’re a real football player, motivates you, the love of the game, and being able to play it. More so than money is going to play with the best players in the world and really pushing yourself to the limits and seeing what you can do at the next level,” Hockenson said.

The Chariton native is focusing on the Outback Bowl and compartmentalizing that from his future. He isn’t likely to make a decision before the game and, like the rest of the draft eligibles, have until Jan. 15 to decide whether or not to keep their names in the draft.

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“That’s the biggest thing is not letting anything distract what we have for the bowl game and going out there and having fun with all these guys,” Hockenson said. “This is probably one of my favorite teams I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve been through thick and thin, and I love these guys.

“So, none of the NFL, none of anything about the future is going to get in the way of this game.”

Hooker led Iowa in interceptions (4) and pass breakups (7). He was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year earlier this week after playing safety and linebacker for the Hawkeyes.

“I’m giving it a little bit of thought just to see what the NFL scouts have to say, what I grade out as,” Hooker said. “But as of right now, I’m just worried about this bowl game and getting better.”

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Stanley is considered by self-professed draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. to be the No. 9 draft-eligible quarterback. He has 2,638 yards passing with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.

Nelson, a defensive end, tied with teammate A.J. Epenesa for the Big Ten lead with 9.5 sacks. Jackson protected Stanley’s blind side well and boasts NFL size and athleticism.

Watch what else Hockenson, Hooker and Stanley had to say about their futures in this HN TV video:

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