Ryan Donahue had to report to Lucas Oil Stadium so early this morning that he didn’t see light until he stepped out to meet the media at around 12:30.
Donahue, the former Hawkeye punter, is at the NFL’s beck and call. As an hopeful draft pick, he’s willing to do whatever the league says whenever the says this week at the NFL combine.
“It’s been kind of a circus, but there’s a lot of stuff you have to go through,” said Donahue, who averaged 44.6 yards a punt last season, a career high for the four-year starter. “This is the first time I have seen daylight today.”
Donahue’s agenda for the combine is simple.
“I want to show that I’m the best punter here,” he said. “This is time for the big show, this is time for the NFL. I’m here to show myself and show other teams I’m the best.”
Even though he put up a career best in average last season, Donahue wasn’t totally happy. The five touchbacks he had was too high for his taste. Also, his leg didn’t force returners into fair-catch situations (seven).
“My senior year wasn’t ideal, but it’s something I can improve and I’m excited about that,” Donahue said.
Iowa had noted special teams struggles in 2010. Donahue wasn’t the captain of the special teams, but the punter is one of the most visible members of those units. He took it all seriously.
“When your team struggles, it bothers you,” Donahue said. “You’re ingrained in the team. You jell with this team. Everyone feels the same way. When someone is hurting, everyone is hurting.”
Donahue served solely as Iowa’s punter for four years, but he said Thursday that he’s totally open to kicking, if it will help expand his possibilities.
Kicking was never in the conversation for Donahue at Iowa. Early in Kirk Ferentz’s days at Iowa, the Hawkeyes tried Nate Kaeding as punter and kicker. The punting thing didn’t take, but Kaeding went on to become a Lou Groza Award winner, Iowa’s all-timer and is a Pro Bowl kicker for the San Diego Chargers.
“I wanted it to be [kicking in the conversation], but coach Ferentz really wanted me to be a punter,” Donahue said. “He thinks punters are few and far between.”
Donahue still kicked in practice at Iowa. “Just to rattle the kickers a little bit,” he said.
Donahue also was a holder for four years at Iowa. He plans to carry that on to the NFL.
Donahue talked about the physical he received, “It was something special.” He was asked about injuries going all the way back to a high school ankle sprain.
“They work all that stuff out to make sure your flexibility is in tune,” he said.
Oddly, the sweet spot on an NFL football is smaller than the one in college, Donahue said.
Also, the demands from an NFL special teams coach will be different than they were at Iowa. You’ve all seen the special teams coach caricature, crazy yelling guy. At Iowa, Lester Erb oversaw punting. He’s also the running backs coach was well as one or two more special teams units.
Another adjustment will likely be directional punting. There aren’t a lot of Devin Hesters in the Big Ten. The NFL has a Devin Hester and then a bunch of guys who can return a punt for a TD. Donahue was never asked to directional punt at Iowa.
“On the field, I would give my gunners a heads up, I’m going this way or I’m going that way,” Donahue said. “They would leave it up to me judging the field position and the wind.”
Punts: 11 at Penn State, 10/6/07
Average: 60.5 vs. Wisconsin, 10/23/10
Long: 82 vs. Michigan State, 10/27/07
Inside 20: 4, fourtimes, last at Arizona, 9/18/10
Punting No. Yds. Avg. Lng In-20 TB Blk
Freshman 86 3,533 41.1 82 24 15 1
Sophomore 50 2,078 41.6 64 19 7 1
Junior 61 2,496 40.9 73 27 5 0
Senior 54 2,408 44.6 73 22 12 1
Career 251 10,515 41.9 82 92 39 3
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