Stepaniak selected in sixth round by Packers

Five rounds came and went, and Indiana football’s six-year streak of players drafted into the NFL was at risk.

But with the 30th pick of the sixth round, No. 209 overall, the Green Bay Packers pushed the Hoosiers’ streak to seven by selecting IU offensive guard Simon Stepaniak.

Stepaniak, a 6-foot-4, 321-pounder from Hamilton, Ohio,  impressed at the February combine with his 37 reps in the 225-pound bench press, second only to Fresno State guard Netane Muti’s 44. He wasn’t able to participate in drills, though, as Stepaniak continued to rehab from a knee injury suffered during bowl practices in late December.

While there wasn’t an IU pro day in March for Stepaniak to show his progress medically, the fifth-year grad reiterated in a teleconference with reporters last month that he was on track to be 100 percent by the start of NFL camps in the summer.

He also believed team doctors at the combine in Indianapolis were optimistic about his progress.

“All the medical staffs checked out my body and they were already pleased,” Stepaniak said. “There’s no hesitation or anything like that. They all believe it’s going to be a nice, clean recovery. It’s just having that hands on with the actual team doctors. Getting face-to-face with the coaches is huge.”

This was an odd year for that last part. Stepaniak talked about doing X-and-O breakdowns with NFL personnel departments via FaceTime. But the Packers obviously liked what they saw on film from the veteran guard.

As a Hoosier, Stepaniak started 31 games during his career, including 30 at right guard and one at left. He was a team captain in 2019 and was voted third-team All-Big Ten by the media. This is the second year in a row the Hoosiers have had an offensive guard selected, as Wes Martin was a fourth-round pick of Washington in 2019.

“I’ll be able to play any of the three interior spots,” Stepaniak told Packers media members during a conference call. “But I’m focused on just getting as good as I can and learning the new playbook and just giving everything I can for the guys on the team and doing my part helping the team out.”

Daniel Jeremiah, an analyst for NFL Network, said during Saturday’s draft broadcast that he could see Stepaniak developing into a rotational lineman at the next level. Jeremiah was initially concerned by the first game film of Stepaniak he watched, but the Hoosiers’ guard grew on him.

“The more I watched, that was just a bad day at the office,” Jeremiah said. “He’s just really strong with his hands when he keeps them inside. When his hands get wide, he gets in trouble.”

Stepaniak was the only Hoosier selected Saturday, but it was enough to continue the program’s streak to seven years, its longest run since the selection process was reduced to seven rounds in 1994. The streak started with Denver Broncos second-round pick Cody Latimer in 2014, following consecutive years where Hoosiers weren’t picked.

Of the 11 athletes selected in those seven years, four have been offensive linemen, including offensive tackle Jason Spriggs by Green Bay in the 2016 second round. Offensive guard Dan Feeney was IU’s lone selection the very next year, scooped up by the Chargers in Round 3.

As far as his knee is concerned, Stepaniak told the Packers media corps that it’s progressing “phenomenally.”

“I’m rehabbing, working out throughout the whole weeks, been getting really good work here, it’s going really well,” Stepaniak said. “The timeline as of now is to be ready for camp. That’s definitely promising. Like I said, it’s healing great, the rehab, I’ve just been attacking it, there’s no let up on it. And it’s been going really well.”

Stepaniak is one of two offensive linemen the Packers selected on the draft’s third day. They both were taken in the sixth round — and both from the Big Ten. Michigan’s Jon Runyan was selected 17 picks earlier by Green Bay.

The Packers’ media corps, obviously blown away by Stepaniak’s bench press number, did question Stepaniak on his overall athleticism and how it would fit into the Packers’ zone blocking scheme.

“I take pride in my athleticism,” Stepaniak said. “Hopefully I can continue to share that as I continue playing and more people get eyes on me. I’m excited to give everything I have for this fan base and for this team and for that locker room. I’m excited just to get to work.”

2 comments

  1. Congratulations to Stepaniak for being drafted. And congratulations to IU FB for extending the streak to seven years. In relative terms, that’s great for IU. But it’s obvious that IU still has a long way to go in recruiting and developing top tier talent that NFL teams want to hire.

    I suspect that next year, if they stay healthy, IU will have two or three players selected in the NFL Draft.

  2. Good luck to him with his opportunity in the NFL.; it is time next year to have more than one Hoosier drafted as IU takes the next step up.

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