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Mitch King looks to NFL draft to fulfill childhood dream

BY BRENDAN STILES | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

It’s no question how dominant Mitch King is on the gridiron.

From his coming out party against Wisconsin that earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors in 2005 to being named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2008, King has always been a force anchoring the defensive line alongside teammate Matt Kroul.

With the 2009 NFL draft approaching, no one is asking if King will be drafted, but when an NFL team elects to help the Burlington native fulfill what he said has been a lifelong dream.

“It was something I dreamed of all along,” King said. “Every kid says that, things like that, but that really was my main dream and main goal to someday have an opportunity and a chance to get where I’m at.”

While King has garnered some interest from teams looking at him as a defensive end or a hybrid linebacker, he said most of the NFL teams he has spoken to view him playing the same 3-technique defensivelineman position he held down for four years at Iowa.

Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski has heard scouts mention the possibility of King only being used on third down in what are usually passing situations, which he believes is an underestimation of King’s talents.

“Mitch, to me, is an entire package,” Kaczenski said. “He’s stout against the run. He’s shown that against zone teams, he’s shown that against power teams. He’s also a heck of a pass-rusher, too. This guy makes people nervous, and you better have a plan to block Mitch King.

“I don’t know if Mitch is given enough credit for being a complete player versus the run and the pass.”

Based on the speculation he has heard from those he trusts most, King believes he may end up being selected this weekend anywhere between the second and fifth rounds. Currently, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., has King pegged as a fourth-round pick, being drafted 115th overall by the New York Jets and listed as a defensive lineman.

Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., also has King drafted in the fourth round, but listed as a defensive end and taken seven spots sooner at the 108th selection held by the Miami Dolphins, who just happen to be the team King said he grew up cheering for.

Wes Bunting of the National Football Post has the 6-2, 280-pound lineman going toward the end of third round at the 99th pick overall, held by the Chicago Bears.

Even with King being regarded as someone who is undersized, there’s no doubt in his mind whether he is as good as they come, saying his work ethic as “second to none.” During the Hawkeyes’ Pro Day, King ran a 4.89 40-yard dash, recorded 25 reps on the bench press of 225 pounds, and had a 331⁄2 -inch vertical.

“Playing in the Senior Bowl and going to the combine and things, I think I have some of the best technique, best footwork and hands in the draft amongst defensive linemen, just being around them, watching them practice,” King said. “There’s a lot of prettier guys out there than me, but I doubt they’re better football players than I am.”

King described the last four months as “long and boring,” and said his plans are to watch this weekend’s draft alone, at least until a team calls saying it will pick him.

Regardless of where King ends up by weekend’s end, Kaczenski sees King excelling at the next level, simply because of the motor King plays with, as well as the way he manages to motivate himself on a regular basis.

“He’s the kind of guy, you let him go play,” Kaczenski said. “You don’t want to screw him up, you don’t want to hold him back, and with a guy that has a lot of passion and energy for the game, he’s made my job a heck of a lot easier and made me a better coach over the last couple of years, that’s for sure.”


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