Bradley Fletcher probably thought that covering Big Ten receivers was a demanding task.
What Fletcher will deal with later this week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis can be as daunting as facing a speedy receiver. Like hundreds of other NFL hopefuls, Fletcher, a graduate of Liberty High School, will try to show every power broker in the NFL that he has the right stuff to play on the next level.
Fletcher, who played in 46 of 49 games at cornerback at the University of Iowa after red-shirting in 2004, will arrive in Indianapolis Saturday. He'll join other defensive backs Sunday for two grueling days of physical tests and endless interviews.
"There will be plenty of scouts and coaches and general managers there," Fletcher said. "It's an opportunity to be in front of them and make an impact in some of those drills. It will be a good experience."
Fletcher has an intriguing mix of size (6-foot-1 and 196 pounds) and speed. There's nothing more that grabs the attention of scouts than an impressive time in the 40, and Fletcher, who's been timed in the low 4.4s, hopes to flash better times.
The combine, however, isn't about simply running fast straight ahead at 40 yards. There are agility drills tailored for each position group that can give prospects a chance to highlight their athletic worth.
Perhaps of most importance are the interviews the athletes have to handle. They get up early in the morning, are looked at by medical personnel before doing their physical tests, and then spend the evening being invited into interview rooms by employees of teams that have an interest in adding them to their team's draft class or perhaps signing them as free agents.
As of now, Fletcher appears to be headed to a selection in the later rounds of the draft. According to NFLdraftscout.com, Fletcher is ranked 27th among all cornerbacks with a projection of a seventh-round selection.
The good news for Fletcher is that an arrow next to his name is pointing upwards. That means his draft status could take a big leap with a solid showing at the combine.
"I'm sure that's one projection, but we won't know what happens until draft day comes," he said.
Fletcher was fifth on the Hawkeyes defense in tackles last season with 60 (44 solos and 16 assists). He intercepted three passes.
"I feel I'm a bigger guy," he said. "I feel I can cover bigger receivers and do a lot of things that are good for a cornerback. I have some speed, and I'm a rangy cornerback."
Fletcher is fortunate in having played four seasons for coach Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. Formally an assistant in the NFL for Bill Belichick in Cleveland and often rumored to be a NFL head-coaching candidate, Ferentz has the knowledge needed to give athletes proper advice on how to approach the combine.
"(He said) just be myself," Fletcher said. "I've always been able to talk to people. I'm not shy about talking to people. (Interviews) are part of the process. I can stand there and talk in front of coaches and general managers and scouts. It will be a good experience to answer questions that they want to know and then go from there."
Fletcher was a multi-sports standout at Liberty. He was known locally as much for his skills on the basketball team as he was for his football exploits.
He looks back favorably to high school, knowing that he was prepared properly to deal with the challenges offered at the highest level of college football.
"We did some good things at Liberty," he said. "We had good coaches in coach (Jeff) Whittaker and his staff. It was a good experience there. That helped me come here, and really what I got from there was hard work and coming to work every day. From the weight room and on the field."
Many of the top-level prospects skip the physical tests at the combine, concerned that a bad 40 time might cost them draft spots and millions of dollars. Fletcher plans to participate in all the drills. He's been working out in preparation for what he'll face later this week in Indianapolis.
"I'd just like to be able to be given a chance to go somewhere," he said. "That's all I'm asking for."