April 28, 2008

Dream come true

The NFL Draft is in the books for 2008 and for a pair of former Hawkeyes it was a day that they will never forget. For Kenny Iwebema, it provides the opportunity to reunite with his old position coach in Arizona and for Mike Humpal, it means that he will continue to wear black and gold at the professional level.

After hearing the name of teammate Charles Godfrey called early in the 3rd round on Sunday morning, Iwebema and Humpal knew it was a matter of playing the waiting game. Nothing was guaranteed as far as being selected on Sunday. But, they were hoping.

Iwebema had made trips to the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs in recent week, so he felt that those two teams along with the Arizona Cardinals were possibilities. Then in round four, the wait came to an end as Arizona made him the 116th pick overall and it also meant that the former Hawkeye defensive end would be reunited with his old position coach, Ron Aiken.

"I was pretty excited when I got the call," Iwebema said. "It feels real good to be back with Coach Aiken."

It's natural that Iwebema would feel good about getting back with his old coach, the person who turned him from a 220 pound prospect as a freshman into a 270 pound NFL player and in the process became a father figure in his life.

"I really can't describe what he has meant to me. He brought me in and I was kind of a knucklehead and he made me into a three year starter. I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without Coach Aiken. He did a lot for me and I appreciate it."

But, Iwebema knows that the NFL is all about business and one of the first things Coach Aiken shared with him today was that there will be no favors given even though the two have a previous relationship.

"He told me that this is a business and I need to prove myself to him and the organization. This isn't a scholarship anymore, this is about a paycheck and I know I will be expected to perform," Iwebema said.

Round four was in the books as was round five and Mike Humpal was just sitting down to grab a bite to eat with the NFL Draft on in the background when his cell phone rang and it was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were coming up with pick #188 overall and the 22nd in round six.

"The coaches asked me if I was ready to be a Steeler," Humpal said. "I told them it would be a great opportunity that I would love to have. Then I shared the news with everyone at home and a few minutes later if popped up on the TV."

For the former Iowa linebacker, the road to getting just getting to the NFL was a hard one. The knee surgery he underwent in college basically realign it was one that no one had ever made a success return to the playing field. But, Humpal did more than return and played at a very high level. He is very thankful to have the chance to continue his playing career in black and gold at the professional level.

"I don't have to change the colors and the name, just a new number," he said with a laugh. "It is just nice to have the chance to play football again and have this opportunity especially with everything I have had to go through with my knee."

The professional careers of Iwebema, Humpal, Charles Godfrey, Albert Young (signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings), and Bryan Mattison (signing as a free agent with the New York Jets) will begin later this week with rookie mini camps over the weekend. Humpal says that after a long and emotional day, it will be back to work tomorrow preparing for camp.

"It has really been a long day, but tomorrow morning I am headed to Iowa City to get in a couple of good workouts to prepare for camp this weekend."

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