Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
IOWA CITY — It’s hard to overlook Matt Kroul’s impact to the Iowa football program.
The Mount Vernon native started a school-record 50 straight games. That’s every game for Iowa’s last four seasons, including three bowls. He has an award roll in Iowa’s spring prospectus that includes the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award, permanent team captain status and second-team all-Big Ten honors by the league’s media outlets.
However, lost in his long list of accolades, was his name from the NFL Combine in February.
“After some of the stuff I had done, it was disappointing,” Kroul said. “But at the same time, it opened my eyes to keep working, and keep on … I figure, hopefully, for the next few years of my life to just keep competing every day, I took it heart, too, I guess.”
Kroul thought about the slight when he met with Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Getting left out stung Kroul.
“I used it as motivation and make the most of things on my pro day,” Kroul said. “Hopefully I put good enough numbers up there that there’s more interest.
“Yeah, it hurt a little bit, but at the same time, you just kind of roll with things and go on.”
Kroul, 23, finished his Iowa career with 238 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He’s forever linked with fellow defensive tackle Mitch King, with whom he paired in the starting lineup for 45 games. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz often references “King and Kroul” when talking about leadership and work ethic, whether it’s in a spring practice or a game.
“From my vantage point, he’s a guy that’s going to make someone’s team better and help them win football games,” Ferentz said.
“I’ve had several people say they were really impressed with him,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be him finding the right spot, right place, right time.”
Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC., graded Kroul as a seventh-round pick despite Kroul not receiving a combine invitation. Shonka said Kroul has several intangibles teams are looking for, including his physical skills.
“He’s an excellent technique player,” Shonka said. “He can run those guards back; he can drive them back,. He uses his hands really well, he keeps a low pad level, he’s instinctive. …”
“If you study Iowa’s tapes, he’s one of those guys that’s always in the picture frame, He’s always around the ball. I think that he does so many good things.”
Kroul has improved his stature with a strong showing at Iowa’s pro day in March. He’s up to 291 pounds and stands nearly 6 feet, 1.5 inches. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.
“If Matt Kroul gets signed as a free agent, he’s going to be a steal for somebody,” Shonka said. “Because, again, there’s not a lot of true 4-3 tackles out there because there’s so many of the nose tackle types. Matt would fit right in that 4-3 scheme.”
The Sporting News listed Kroul as a priority free agent for teams. The magazine touted Kroul as a punishing tackler who “wants to be in on every play … a hard-nosed player who shows intelligence and toughness.” The magazine’s assessment of Kroul is “he’s limited at the next level, (but) he’ll make it tough for a team to cut him.”
Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)
Kroul has heard from several teams interested in either drafting him or signing him to a free-agent contract after the draft. Kroul is confident he’ll get a chance to play in the NFL either way.
“I don’t want to be arrogant or anything, but I’ve done enough the last four years that I should be able to compete with these guys,” Kroul said. “It’s definitely going to be enjoyable. I’ll be looking forward to doing that.”
This weekend, Kroul plans to enjoy the time with his family when he shifts from college to pro player. His thoughts range from “stressful” to “exciting” to “satisfying” when thinking about his journey from Mount Vernon all-stater to Iowa four-year starter to the NFL. He also said the gathering won’t be “too flamboyant.”
“All it takes is one team,” he said.