Bruggeman just wants an opportunity to join NFL

BY RYAN YOUNG | APRIL 20, 2009 7:30 AM

Playing football as a tyke in the Midwest, the only thing Rob Bruggeman wanted to be growing up was a Hawkeye.

He didn’t want to be a Bear, or a Packer, or a Viking. And he certainly didn’t aspire to be a Lion.
Now, as one of five former Iowa players expected to be chosen in the NFL draft, the only team he’s hoping to play for is the one that will give him a chance.

From the phone calls and workouts, Bruggeman knows he has generated interest at the next level. But the 6-4 center isn’t worried about any of the rankings and analysis clipped to his name entering the draft.

“I’m not really thinking about it a whole lot, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I don’t really have a whole lot of expectations going into it. I’d rather be drafted, but I know at least I’ll end up in a NFL camp. I’m just excited to be able to go play football again. It’s been a long time.”

His time away from the field has been time well spent.

After helping the Hawkeyes cap their 2008 campaign with an inspiring 31-10 Outback Bowl victory on New Year’s Day, he said he went straight to work with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, bettering his bench press and enhancing his agility for the NFL scouting combine in February.
A strained hamstring kept him from running at the combine, however. And as a result, the stout Cedar Rapids native could only showcase his strength, benching 225 pounds 30 times — the 10th best tally among offensive linemen at the event.

But while such scant data didn’t make NFL scouts exactly salivate, Bruggeman attempted to make up for his injury at Iowa’s Pro Day on March 23, when he ran a 5.05 40-yard dash, posted a 33-inch vertical leap, and raised his bench press reps to 32.

With those numbers, Bruggeman’s agent, Jack Bechta, said he expects his client to be a mid-round selection and possibly even the second center taken in the draft.

NFLdraftScout.com, a CBS Sports affiliate, has Bruggeman listed as the 14th-best center in this year’s draft class and the 395th-best overall prospect.

“The only challenge that is out of his control is that — and this goes for all the offensive linemen this year — Iowa was primarily a running team,” Bechta said. “That’s where a player playing on a more balanced offense may have an advantage because his résumé is a little stronger in both passing and running.”

But even if Bruggeman isn’t one of the initial 256 players drafted this weekend, Bechta said, he’d still be a highly sought after free agent because of his status as a top-rated run blocker and the past success of running back Shonn Greene last season.

Bechta declined to name specific suitors vying for Bruggeman’s services, but he said run-oriented teams would be the most likely ones eyeing the former Hawkeye walk-on.

Meanwhile, Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said Bruggeman possess two key qualities that could bring him a lucrative professional career: smarts and fundamentals. All that is missing is an opportunity and an ideal environment to grow in.

“The biggest thing from any guy, no matter who you are, or what position you are, is being the right guy in the right system with the right general manager or the right coach,” O’Keefe said. “All those pieces have to fit together. If they don’t fit together, you won’t be around long.”

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