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Bryce Paup is 1 of 4 Northern Iowa assistants with NFL ties

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Bryce Paup, who starred for several NFL teams, is now an assistant coach for Northern Iowa.

If you watch closely during Saturday's Iowa-Northern Iowa game, you might be able to see a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year on UNI's sideline.

Former NFL linebacker Bryce Paup, who was named the NFL's top defender in 1995 as a member of the Buffalo Bills, is a UNI assistant and is one of three former NFL players on UNI's coaching staff. The staff also includes a former NFL offensive line coach.

Frank Verducci -- who has worked as an assistant with the Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams -- is the former NFL assistant. Paup -- a UNI alum who also played for Green Bay, Jacksonville and Minnesota -- is joined as an assistant by former NFL defensive backs Daniel Bullocks (Detroit Lions) and Brandon Lynch (Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans); Lynch has a Super Bowl ring from his time in Indianapolis. That means almost half of UNI's assistants (four of nine) have an NFL background.

"The pro game is about details," Verducci told the Des Moines Register. "When you bring that detail work down to the college level, it's more attention to the little things. When you compile that, you hope it makes a significant difference."

Panthers senior running back David Johnson (6-foot-3, 229 pounds), who is a definite NFL prospect because of his size, speed and production (3,129 yards and 32 TDs in three seasons), said the former NFL players have helped him become a better-rounded player.

"They help me understand what they're looking for at the next level, what the scouts want to see," Johnson said. "Coach Verducci has helped me with my blocking and things like that.

"They definitely have the respect of the players because they've been at such a high level."

Panthers coach Mark Farley told the Register that having an NFL background is nice, but it certainly isn't the be-all, end-all about being an assistant.

"You can get in those first couple of meetings because of your name," Farley said. "But you can't sustain it unless you're a great person. Just because you put a whistle or a hat on, or just because you played the game, doesn't make you a coach.

"The reason those guys are so respected is not because they're out there hollering about their position. It's about their teaching and mentoring off the field."

If you happen to notice Verducci at some point during Saturday's telecast (12 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network), don't be surprised if you see him glancing into the stands. His family lives in Iowa City and the Verduccis have Iowa season tickets.

"This is where our best friends are, this is where my children have grown up, so I've got a lot of affection for Iowa City and the university," said Verducci, who was an assistant at Iowa from 1989-98.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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