IOWA CITY – Working toward next week’s NFL draft, Keegan Render and Ross Reynolds are attempting to make the most of what they see as their own Iowa edge.
The two offensive linemen have hopes to add their name to the long list of Hawkeye offensive linemen who have worked their way into NFL opportunities, either as draft selections or by signing as an undrafted free agent.
“I feel like the success Iowa players have had in the past does make a difference. Teams know what they’re getting when they sign someone from our program,’’ Reynolds said.
Render sees that as a collaborative situation that starts with the coaching players get from Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Hawkeye assistants, from the assistance they receive from strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle and his staff and from the relationships they establish with former players who return to campus to train during the offseason.
“It all makes a difference,’’ Render said. “The coaching on the field and in the weight room is unmatched and to have a chance to get to know and pick the brain of guys who have been through it before, who are still playing in the NFL, that’s invaluable.’’
Reynolds realized that value as he worked his way up the Hawkeye depth chart.
“There’s a reason guys like Marshal Yanda and James Daniels come back here and train,’’ Reynolds said. “They know they’re going to be ready for their own camps because of the work they put in with Doyle. Watching them work and seeing what they put into it, it shows you what you need to put into it.’’
That provides motivation which not only benefits an athlete individually but also helps sustain a high level of quality line play within the Hawkeye program.
Render believes he benefited from just being around and getting to know former players who returned to campus.
“There are so many guys from here who have gone on and had success, you learn from how they prepare for the draft and then from how they prepare for their seasons,’’ Render said. “All of those guys, they’re always willing to talk and help as much as they can.’’
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Reynolds and Render both enter the draft after earning all-Big Ten recognition during their senior seasons.
A 6-foot-4, 295-pound native of Waukee, Reynolds had made just one career start before his senior season but earned second-team all-conference honors from league coaches and was a third-team choice of the media while starting 13 games last season at left guard.
Render, a 6-4, 307-pound Indianola native, made 33 career starts on the Iowa offensive line. He shifted to center from a guard spot for his senior season and earned third-team all-Big Ten honors from the media and honorable mention from conference coaches.
Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek believes both will have an opportunity to compete in an NFL camp, saying both performed well in front of scouts during Iowa’s pro day last month.
“Whether they are drafted or not, I feel like they are capable of helping a team,’’ Polasek said. “Competitively, they have put themselves in a good position, especially when we talk about their abilities in pass protection.’’
Nine offensive lineman who played at Iowa suited up for NFL teams last season.
“There is a good history of Iowa linemen who have gone into the NFL and been productive,’’ Render said. “We’re trained to be ready to compete at the next level, but we know we have to earn it, just like we did here.’’
Given his journey to the lineup, Reynolds appreciates that as much as anyone.
“You get out of this game what you put into it,’’ he said. “I feel like I’ve made some good strides in the past year that have put me in a pretty good place right now, but I just have to keep working. That’s really what it is all about. This is when it has to happen.’’