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IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz grew up in Pittsburgh concurrently with the Steelers’ rise to NFL dominance. So it comes as no surprise that Ferentz has immense respect for former Steelers Coach Chuck Noll.
Noll, the only coach to win four Super Bowls, died last Friday at age 82. The former Steelers coach influenced Ferentz, who decided as a high school sophomore he wanted to coach and teach for a living.
“It’s fair to say he was an idol of mine, somebody I idolized,” Ferentz said. “When I was in college, my dad would send me — we didn’t have the Internet back then — but he’d send me the sports section from the Pittsburgh papers for seven days every week. I read every article. I still have got a lot of them in my file right there. I’ve got everything that’s been written over the last several days.”
Ferentz said Noll influenced him as a coach simply by listening to him speak. Ferentz, who enters his 16th season as Iowa’s football coach, remembers a 1995 clinic at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh led by former Steelers assistants Dan Radakovich and Joe Walton. Ferentz was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line coach and worked under Bill Belichick at the time.
“I got to hear Coach Noll talk about the art of hitting for 50 minutes,” Ferentz said. “For me that was a thrill. Maybe not for everyone else, but for me that was a thrill. I was just mesmerized that an NFL coach could talk for 50 straight minutes just about technique and fundamentals. If you watched their team play, that was the trademark of their team.”
Noll coached the Steelers from 1969-1991. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and was 209-156-1 as the Steelers’ coach.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also influenced Iowa football late in the 1970s. Iowa Coach Hayden Fry patterned the Hawkeyes’ uniforms after the Steelers so the team could look like champions.
“To me he stands for what’s good in coaching,” Ferentz said. “So to grow up in that town was just a lucky coincidence, and I’ve been lucky along the way.”
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