The NFL Draft continues to be a showcase for the Iowa Way under Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz on the sideline at Michigan State. Photo by Jeff Yioder

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The NFL Draft continues to be a grand showcase for the Iowa way under Kirk Ferentz.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Iowa way, it’s getting more out of what is perceived by most as less.

It’s turning a two-star recruit with no power five scholarship offers into a consensus All-American and a second-round NFL draft pick, as is the case with cornerback Josh Jackson.

It’s about taking chances when others won’t and about trusting your judgement, your instincts and your culture.

Iowa took a chance on Jackson, and on linebacker Josey Jewell, and were rewarded handsomely for it as they both become consensus All-Americans after arriving on campus as two-star recruits.

Jackson and Jewell will now be rewarded as NFL draft picks.

The Green Bay Packers selected Jackson in the second round on Friday, while the Denver Brooks picked Jewell in the fourth round on Saturday.

Center James Daniels also was taken in the second round, and with the 39th pick overall, by the Chicago Bears on Friday. His story is incredible in many ways, considering Daniels is only 20 years old and he played just three seasons at Iowa.

But Daniels was also a four-star recruit in high school in Ohio and he turned down scholarship offers from practically every elite program in the country, including Ohio State and Alabama to be a Hawkeye.

So his rise to second-round NFL Draft pick is maybe easier to explain, because according to the recruiting rankings, Daniels already had star potential when he arrived at Iowa.

Jackson and Jewell, on the other hand, were considered long shots at best to be starters in college, let alone stars.

Iowa was the only power five school to offer either one a scholarship.

Jewell is from Decorah and probably was headed to Northern Iowa if Iowa hadn’t come through with a late scholarship offer that Ferentz still jokes about.

It took some convincing from Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan before Ferentz finally approved the offer. Ferentz trusted Morgan’s judgment because Morgan has a knack for finding hidden gems.

“We were so close to not offering him a scholarship,” Ferentz said. “We really went back and forth. Really, the deciding factor was the person that knew him the best on our staff was Reese Morgan. When Reese has a feeling about a player, it’s typically not wrong.”

Jackson grew up in football-crazy Texas, but there weren't many schools crazy about his talent or potential. He picked Iowa over scholarship offers from Colorado State, Nevada and New Mexico State.

The Iowa way combines vision with hard work and player development and a strong culture in which to produce results.

Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle also plays a vital role in player development, maybe the most important role, considering how much time he spends with the players on a daily basis.

Ferentz and his assistants often see things in unheralded recruits that other coaches from power five schools apparently don’t see. 

Because just consider some of the players who came to Iowa with it being their only power five scholarship offer. In addition to Jackson and Jewell, the also list includes defensive backs Bob Sanders, Micah Hyde and Desmond King.

It’s incredible to think that four of the greatest defensive backs in program history, and one of the greatest linebackers in program history wouldn’t have had a single power five offer without the Iowa offer.

Iowa has had 66 players selected in the NFL Draft under Ferentz, including 16 in the first two rounds and 28 in the first three rounds. And to say that some of those players were unheralded as recruits would be an understatment.

The Iowa way isn’t perfect, considering how few quarterbacks, receivers and running backs have made the NFL since Ferentz took over in 1999.

But you’d still be hard-pressed to find a power five program, besides maybe Wisconsin and Kansas State, that consistently gets more out of what is perceived as less than Iowa.

The NFL Draft reminds us of that every year.