Q&A: Jeff Tarpinian


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Jeff Tarpinian entered the 2010 season as the Hawkeyes' starting middle linebacker, but hand and neck injuries limited him to playing in only eight games. The Omaha native isn't expected to be selected during this weekend's NFL draft, but he will likely be given an opportunity by a team as a free-agent pickup. Tarpinian graduated from the UI in December with a degree in accounting.

The Daily Iowan caught up with him for a phone interview last week.

DI: What was it like coming into the past season as a senior, kind of being 'the guy' at linebacker finally?

Tarpinian: I was excited to have my senior year and get a chance to be a starter. So that was definitely exciting going in. I had a few setbacks, but I never let that get to me. I kind of just stayed on track, and stayed focused, and tried to help out, and do everything I could to help the team.

Coming back to the bowl game after the injury, that was nice to be able to play in that.

DI: Was it difficult often being sidelined with injuries during your senior year?

Tarpinian: Maybe when I was younger I would let that get to me, kind of dwell on it. But the program, [head] coach [Kirk] Ferentz, and [strength and conditioning] coach [Chris] Doyle do such a good job of teaching you how to be a better man more than how to be a better football player. So when I got hurt this year it took me about one second to realize that I was going to focus on everything that I could control. I was going to help out all my teammates who were playing because I was out and do everything I could to get better and help the team. So it really wasn't something that was as hard as it may seem.

DI: Are you 100 percent right now?

Tarpinian: I've been healthy. The last three or four months I've had no problems with my strength, and I'm feeling pretty good. In the bowl game, I had no problems, either, so that was nice. So it's been pretty encouraging, and I'm really excited about it.

DI: What's it been like being done with your Iowa football career?

Tarpinian: It's been a little differently, obviously. Especially with spring ball going on, to be on the other side of things. At the same time, we're back training with [Iowa strength and conditioning] coach [Chris] Doyle, so we're still around the program. A little weird being done, but it's nice to still be training with Coach Doyle and be training with a lot of the same guys you played with.

DI: How soon did you begin training after the end of the season?

Tarpinian: [Doyle] likes to get the seniors back — who are training for the Combine or Pro Day — he likes to get them back a week or two earlier than the [returning players]. We probably had a week or two off in January after the bowl game. Then we were back training. So it was a pretty quick turnaround but it was nice to get back and start zoning in on Pro Day and stuff.

DI: Have you gotten any advice on what to expect through the whole pre-draft and draft process?

Tarpinian: Coach Doyle does a good job of laying it out for you, what to expect. What's going to happen, what you're going to go through. Basically, all you can do is focus on your training. You really can't control anything outside of that. So it's really not something you try to worry about.

DI: You've had a couple visits with some NFL teams. What are those visits like?

Tarpinian: They can't work you out when they take you there. But basically you do your physical in the morning, all your medical stuff. Then you interview with most of the coaches and the coaching staff and sometimes people like the general manager or a sports psychologist. They just kind of want to get to know you as a person.

Other than that, sometimes the defensive coordinator will try to teach you the defense and get you on the whiteboard. Have you recite it back to them, or take a quiz. Make sure that you're going to be able to comprehend the different defenses and understand.

DI: Did you feel your Iowa career prepared you well for those situations?

Tarpinian: Definitely. Our coaches do a great job of teaching us the game of football. What we've learned here, you can apply it to any type of defense and understand what's going on.

DI: In those meetings, were you asked a lot about your injury history?

Tarpinian: That's been the biggest thing, obviously; I understand they want to make sure I'm healthy. Luckily I passed all my physicals and didn't have any problems with any strength tests they put me through, so it's been encouraging. I'm excited that they're giving me a shot even though I've had an injury history.

DI: Can you talk about Coach Doyle and what it's been like having him as a coach throughout your career? He was the subject of a lot of criticism for the rhabdomyolysis incident.

Tarpinian: Coach Doyle, he's been unbelievable. I came in about 200 pounds [as a freshman] and I'm about 240 now. It's been an honor to train under him. I have nothing but absolutely great things to say about him from a coaching standpoint, as a mentor, everything. He's awesome.
That stuff was kind of ridiculous and blown out of proportion.

DI: Is your long hair ever going to make a comeback?

Tarpinian: [Laughs] I haven't cut it since the season, so I'm trying to bring it back. It's getting longer, definitely. I'm trying to keep it going.

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