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Football

Five former Cyclones sign NFL free agent contracts

The following is a press release courtesy of Iowa State Athletics communications.

 AMES, Iowa – Five Iowa State football players signed NFL free agent contracts after the 2020 NFL Draft ended Saturday evening.

The following Cyclones will enter NFL rookie camps when practice resumes: Steve Wirtel (Detroit Lions), Marcel Spears Jr. (Cincinnati Bengals), Julian Good-Jones (Philadelphia Eagles), Josh Knipfel (Cincinnati Bengals) and Ray Lima (Miami Dolphins).

These five seniors were instrumental in helping the Cyclones leap into the national spotlight during their time in Ames. Iowa State went to three bowl games and appeared in the national rankings in each of the last three seasons. ISU’s 23 victories since 2017 is the second-best three-year winning stretch in school history.

Wirtel, an Orland Park, Ill., native, was a model of consistency in his four years as a Cyclone. He took over long snapping duties as a true freshman in 2016 and graded out annually as one of the best.

He played in all 51 games the last four seasons, taking care of deep snaps on punts in 2016 and 2017. He added snaps for field goals and PATs beginning in 2018. The senior was perfect throughout his career.

Wirtel, who played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and competed at the NFL Combine, was one of three finalists for the Patrick Mannelly Award, an award given to the nation’s best long snapper.

Spears, a native of Olathe, Kan., was a centerpiece in Iowa State’s resurgence on defense the last three seasons, starting 39-straight games at linebacker.

A three-time All-Big 12 selection, Spears recorded 272 tackles, 24.5 TFL, 13 pass breakups, 6.0 sacks, four interceptions, two pick-sixes and two forced fumbles in his career. The co-captain capped off his senior season by ranking eighth in the Big 12 in tackles with 92.

Spears, who was a co-captain as a senior in 2019, played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl after the season ended.

Good-Jones was a First Team All-Big 12 offensive lineman in 2019 and a three-time All-Big 12 recipient during his four-year career as a Cyclone.

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native set a school record for most starts in a career with 49 and was a key player in the Cyclones’ record-setting offense in 2019. The Cyclones broke team records in total offense (444.3), touchdowns (53), passing yards (4,047) and yards per play (6.4) this past season.

Good-Jones played in the East-West Shrine Bowl in January.

Knipfel was a co-captain as a senior and started all 39 games of his Cyclone career on the offensive line. The Hampton, Iowa native was a two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection and was a key contributor in the Cyclones’ record-setting offense in 2019.

The heart and soul of ISU’s defensive front the last three seasons, Lima was a three-time All-Big 12 recipient, including earning second-team accolades in 2018 and 2019.

The two-time team captain from Los Angeles, Calif., registered 33 starts, 87 tackles and 10.5 TFL in his outstanding career.