Tampa native Dane Belton’s long-time NFL aspirations started to look realistic in his freshman season at Iowa when he rose from scout team player to starter.
“I knew I wasn’t ready my freshman year,” Belton said, “but I kind of had that feeling like if I can do what I need to do, it’ll become reality.”
If the prognosticators are correct, reality will hit sometime Saturday when the safety from Jesuit High becomes a Day 3 NFL draft pick. The Tampa Bay Times caught up with him this week to see what things are like leading up to his life-changing weekend. Answers have been lightly edited for space and clarity.
What has this draft process been like for you?
It’s been a blessing. I’m taking it as it comes. I feel like I’m not getting super overwhelmed. This is my dream this whole time to be in this position. Anytime I feel like I might have too many meetings or things like that, I just take a step back. This is what I really wanted.
How do you keep from getting overwhelmed? I could see that being crazy.
Oh, definitely. The schedule is crazy. It’s, like, something you can’t really prepare for. A team might text you or your agent the day before and say, ‘Hey, we want to meet tomorrow.’ It’s something you’ve got to make time for. But for me, I feel like personally I don’t really get flustered by a lot.”
How many teams do you think you’ve met with?
Man, I would say in total, whether that be Zoom, in person or at the combine, probably 27, 28.
How many plane rides do you figure you’ve taken since January?
Eight or nine, maybe 10.
What about this process has surprised you?
Nothing really has surprised me, looking back on it. I feel like the people in my corner have helped me through this process, especially my agent, former players, my trainer, things like that. I knew what was ahead of me as far as the workouts, the combine, things like that, getting in the interviews and preparing myself for those.
Do you have any meetings lined up, or is it just waiting at this point?
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Right now it’s pretty much waiting. I took my last visit to the Giants last week. Scouts will text you, just confirming your draft day number and things like that. Other than that, it’s pretty much waiting — waiting for that day.
What’s that like? I would be anxious as heck if I were you.
I’ve gotten that a lot. For me, I’m really enjoying this time. People have told me once you get drafted, it’s like you’re busy until possibly next February, so enjoy this time. Right now I’m back home, being able to spend time with my family before things get hectic. That’s what’s really keeping me not anxious, keeping me steady and not really worrying about what’s about to happen.
What’s on your calendar the next couple days?
I’m still working out, trying to keep my body in shape. I’ve been trying to be smart about my next purchase. I’m trying to find a car that I really like — things like that with my dad and my family to make sure I’m making the right decision. Relaxing. Watching these NBA playoffs and just getting my mind off of the weekend.
What are your plans for the weekend?
I’m just going to keep it low key. Just watch with my parents, and both my grandmas and my brother and just enjoy the time with them. When I get drafted, before I leave, me and my parents talked about having a little going away party, whether that be going bowling with family and friends or things like that.
Are you having fun?
Oh, definitely. It’s a blessing. I love what I’m doing, and being able to work out and know that I’m preparing myself for my ultimate goal and dream. I’m definitely having fun.
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