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Undrafted Hawks keep at it, wait for NFL chance

[ 3 ] May 3, 2011 |

Ryan Donahue is keeping his right leg ready to punt. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos continues to run routes and catch passes from anybody he can find to throw them his way.

Mostly, though, the Iowa football players who weren’t selected last week in the NFL draft are waiting.

They’re waiting for resolution to the NFL’s uncertain labor situation. They’re waiting for the phone to ring with a professional team on the other end. They’re waiting for an opportunity to showcase their skills.

“I’ve got a handful of teams that are certainly interested — obviously not interested enough to draft me, but definitely looking to do a free agent deal,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “We’re just waiting for the lockout to work itself out. … It’s a waiting game right now. This is a bad time for (the lockout) to happen. I’m sure there are a lot of players around the country in the same situation, but I’m not concerned at all. I’m certainly going to get an opportunity, and when I do, I’m going to seize the moment.”

Nobody knows when that opportunity will come. The Hawkeyes had six players selected last week and at least seven others — Donahue, Johnson-Koulianos, tight end Allen Reisner, linebackers Jeff Tarpinian and Jeremiha Hunter, safety Brett Greenwood and fullback Brett Morse — could be candidates to sign as free agents.

Wes Bunting of the National Football Post rated Tarpinian the second-best undrafted free agent at linebacker and Reisner as the No. 3 tight end.

Some analysts ranked Donahue as the top pro prospect at punter, but Miami’s Matt Bosher, who also handles kickoffs and does some place-kicking, was the only player selected at the position.

“Teams are interested, and I had a few phone calls about free agency,” Donahue said. “Obviously, there’s no offers, but when free agency opens up, my agent and I will sit down and figure out the best fit, just like any other football player free agent is looking for right now.”

That’s one silver lining to the lockout. There’s more time now for undrafted free agents and their agents to thoroughly study NFL rosters and get a feel for where the best opportunity to make a roster might be.

In normal years, they’d likely have a team by now. They’d possibly be headed somewhere this weekend for a mini-camp. They’d be learning a new playbook and scheduling their summer around organized team activities and training camp.

“That’s huge because (a mini-camp is) really an opportunity for you to go out early and open some eyes and be considered to make the roster and make an impact, and hopefully that opportunity will present itself,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I think this year is going to be a lot different than any other year due to the lockout, but there’s going to be an opportunity. It’s not going to be like it’s been (historically), but at some point they’ll create a way for guys to come in and show they have the ability to contribute to a team.”

The United Football League held its draft Monday night with little fanfare, announcing its picks via Twitter. No Hawkeyes were selected. Committing to the UFL would’ve meant passing on a shot at the NFL this year, Johnson-Koulianos said.

“The UFL reached out,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “But I shoot for the stars.”

In the meantime, he’s back home in Ohio, training and catching passes. Donahue said he’s been working out, focusing on torso and leg strength in the weight room and doing just enough punting to maintain his technique.

“For right now I’m waiting it out,” Donahue said. “I haven’t closed any options with the UFL or the Canadian league, but obviously the NFL is the best of the best and as an athlete that’s where you want to be. I’m not going to stop going after that until I don’t make it.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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