Mike Elgin claims he never got caught up in dreaming about playing professional football like many school-age boys. If you know Mike Elgin, that makes complete sense.
"When I came to Iowa, my dream was to get on the field, then start," the offensive lineman said. "Now that my college career is done, I'm turning my dream to playing in the NFL. To have this opportunity is absolutely amazing. I never thought I would be here because I always took one step at a time."
To accomplish what Elgin has accomplished takes that kind of focus. The 6-foot-4, 277-pound Bankston, Iowa native earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors as a senior to go with first-team academic all-American laurels. The mechanical engineering major reached the semifinals for the Draddy Trophy, the top academic award given out in college football.
Elgin heads into this weekend's NFL Draft as a possible second-day pick or free agent. He is choosing not to speak about the teams that have shown interest in him.
"There's a list of teams," Elgin said. "It could be real or it might not be. We had eight offensive line coaches at (Iowa's) pro day and a lot of other coaches there looking at our trio of offensive linemen (Marshal Yanda and Mikes Jones are the others)."
Elgin played in the Hula Bowl after the season. He also attracted attention because of his ability to play center and guard, positions where he received extensive playing time with the Hawkeyes.
"I think my versatility gives me an edge over some players," Elgin said. "As far as what position I prefer, it doesn't matter to me. I just want to get into a camp where I can make a team."
Brian Ferentz spent his rookie season on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad in 2006 after playing center and guard at Iowa. He has moved up to second-team guard.
While players being drafted in the first few rounds are pretty much guaranteed a roster spot, second-day picks and free agents fight an up-hill battle to make a team. Elgin prefers not to look at it that way.
"I really don't see the point in worrying about that stuff," he said. "It's not going to make me play better. Whether I was a first-round pick or a free agent, I don't know how my preparation would change. Nobody in this draft has played a down in the NFL. We all have to prove ourselves."
Elgin feels like his draft preparation has been advanced by working with Yanda and Jones. The threesome has pushed each other.
"Our dream is for all of us to make the same team and continue playing football together," Elgin said. "That's probably not going to happen. But the bond all of the seniors have built over the years and preparing for this draft will never break."
Elgin could be facing a tough decision of things don't work out in the NFL. He still is interested in playing professional at another level, but his engineering degree will open a lot of doors.
"I'll have to sit down and think if that day comes," Elgin admitted. "I'll have to weigh the options, the pros and cons. I definitely would consider playing, but it would be a tough decision."
Elgin also would like to stay in the game in a capacity of coaching.
"I'm not sure what level, but it's weird, when you are in the action for as long as I have been, I think you need to stay as close to that action as you can," he said. "If you can't play, coaching keeps you involved."
Elgin plans on returning to Bankston to spend this weekend monitoring the draft with his parents.
"They've been the most influential people in my life," Elgin said. "I'm looking forward to celebrating with them."
Mike Elgin already has earned a degree in mechanical engineering that would provide him a job that pays handsomely. But the Iowa lineman loves football too much not to give the NFL a shot. HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe caught up with Elgin recently to find out how preparations have gone for this weekend's draft. Read all about it in this HN.com Premium Draft Preview.