INDIANAPOLIS — The only way former Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard would look more prepared for the most important job interview of his young life would be if he wore a suit and brought a brief case.
For 12 minutes at the Indiana Convention Center on Friday, the Hawkeyes’ two-year starter appeared calm, measured, well-manicured and confident. He engaged in light banter, discussed in detail his loving relationship with former NFL general manager Bobby Beathard and made a case why an NFL club should draft him in April.
Beathard, 23, was prepared for his moment in front of the cameras.
“I’m not worried about these other guys,” Beathard said Friday. “I’m trying to prove to them that I’m the best quarterback in this draft. All it takes is one team to give me a chance, and I’m going to use it as an opportunity.”
Beathard entered the 2016 season as one of the nation’s top senior quarterback prospects. Without many of his top targets, however, Iowa’s passing attack fizzled. All three of Iowa’s starting wide receivers from 2015 either graduated or were out for the season with injuries. The Hawkeyes’ top tight end in 2015, Henry Krieger Coble, played for the Denver Broncos. The other, George Kittle, suffered a sprained foot midway through the season.
Without weapons in the passing game, Beathard’s numbers deteriorated. He threw the same number of touchdown passes — 17 — but his passing yards dropped from 2,809 to 1,929. His completion percentage sank from 62 to 56. Iowa’s passing game was asthmatic.
NFL coaches saw the 2016 video and understood Iowa’s deficiencies. But they also wanted to hear from Beathard about those issues.
“I came from a pro system that put a lot on the quarterback,” Beathard said. “I’ve done a lot of great things. Obviously, the statistics are down in 2016, but there’s various reasons. You watch the tape, these guys are going to understand more than just a typical fan or someone — they just look at numbers. These guys really do their research and look at plays, and watch every play and watch film and understand why things happen the way they did.”
Beathard did squeeze the most out of Iowa’s offense and guided the Hawkeyes to 21 victories in 28 career starts. He was 12-2 in 2015 when hampered by a hernia that required surgery.
He said Friday that injuries were not an issue for him during the 2016 season. But he pulled a hamstring in the Outback Bowl and aggravated it on a run in the Senior Bowl, which limited his game action. Beathard said his hamstring is at about 85-90 percent but he won’t run the 40-yard dash or compete in agility drills here.
“I’m a tough player,” Beathard said. “I’ve taken a lot of hits, been banged up, but I haven’t missed a game since I’ve been a starter. I think that’s something to say when I start talking to these coaches. I think I’m tough and I think anybody you’d talk to at Iowa would say the same.”
In the last two months, Beathard has worked out in Irvine, Calif., and is represented by REP1’s Bruce Tollner. Beathard measured at 6-foot-2, 219 pounds and will participate in all passing drills.
He’s met with just about every team while in Indianapolis, and he’s enjoying the process.
“I’m pretty prepared to answer anything these guys throw at me,” Beathard said. “That stuff’s easy for me and the football questions are even easier. I love to talk football and getting on the board with these coaches. That’s the big thing they want to see, your knowledge of the game, and it’s pretty easy to see.
“I think the biggest part of the whole combine is getting (to know) the coaches, interviewing with them and letting them know who you are.”
Beathard has won a few admirers. Longtime scout Gil Brandt, who directed the Dallas Cowboys’ scouting department from 1960 through 1988, said he doesn’t list Beathard among his top 100 players but was high on his NFL prospects.
“I’m really disappointed nobody’s talking about Beathard, because I think Beathard’s a pretty good player,” Brandt said. “It won’t surprise me at all if he makes a team and could do pretty good.”
Former Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner is the only other Big Ten quarterback attending the NFL combine. He also touted Beathard’s strengths.
“I think he’s a great player, a great guy as well,” Leidner said. “I’ve had a few opportunities to get to know him through Big Ten media days, the Manning camp and seeing him here now. He’s a great competitor and it’s been a lot of fun competing against Iowa the last couple of years.”
Just about every team asked the former Iowa quarterback about his grandfather, Bobby Beathard, who served previously as general manager for the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. Seven different Bobby Beathard teams advanced to the Super Bowl, from the 1966 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1972-1973 Miami Dolphins to three Redskins squads (1982, 1983, 1987) and one Chargers outfit (1994).
The younger Beathard was asked how his grandfather would grade him as a quarterback.
“He’s always told me I have what it takes, and I’m a great player,” C.J. Beathard said. “He’s just like anybody’s grandpa. He’s a grandpa to me. He’s not my scout. He’s a great, great person and great human being. He’s someone I model my life after. That’s who he is.”