MARION - On the heels of a breakout season, two words greeted the Marion football team as it began preparation for 2017.
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Alerted to the fact that his quarterback was about to wade into a mile of health and sports hernia questions, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz kind of chuckled.
“God bless him,” Ferentz said during Big Ten media days. That was the first hint that C.J. Beathard will begin the 2016 season as Iowa’s 100-percent healthy quarterback.
“We have different competitive drills (strength and conditioning coach) Chris (Doyle) does with the guys,” Ferentz said. “It seems like he’s been winning a lot of those. Every time I watch the guys run, he’s out in front. This goes back into post-spring ball. He was doing really well.”
The second hint was, of course, Beathard saying he’s under no physical restrictions. Asked about being back into the game he loves with good health, his eyes sort of lit up.
“I’m not curious, I’m excited to see what I can do,” Beathard said. “I know I can do things with my feet that I wasn’t able to do last season. Hopefully, I stay healthy all season long, so I can do more of that, more scrambling, more getting out of the pocket and doing things like that. I’m excited for those opportunities and to be able to show that.”
Beathard estimated he played 2 1/2 games at full strength last season. He was hit while diving for the pylon during a TD run against Pitt in week 3. He went to the bench and did some aggressive stretching and wasn’t really the same thereafter.
He did postgame interviews after Illinois encased in plastic wrap and ice around his hip and groin. Beathard barely practiced the next week in the lead up to Northwestern, which he called his worst point.
“It was uncomfortable,” Beathard said when asked if he was miserable the rest of the season. “I wouldn’t say it was miserable, because we were winning. Everything is good when you’re winning games. I wasn’t able to run, I wasn’t able to run as many bootlegs as I wanted to. We had to limit that stuff. We changed some game plans around because I wasn’t able to do as much running, but when you’re winning games, it’s almost a cure-all.
“It was painful when the games were over. I needed a couple of day’s rest. It was painful, but I wouldn’t say it was miserable.”
It sounded miserable and, certainly, painful.
Who knows exactly how long during 2015, but Beathard dealt with a torn groin and a sports hernia for all but those first 2 1/2 weeks. Early on with the injury, some throws were painful because of the way he had do step. He adjusted as the season went on, but in the Rose Bowl, a game in which he endured seven sacks, he was again injured during the first or second series.
Finally, in January, Beathard, who threw for 2,809 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions during Iowa’s 12-2 season, had core muscle surgery. It was performed by Dr. William C. Meyers in Philadelphia, Pa. Meyers is nationally recognized as a pioneer in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of core muscle injuries.
Rehabilitation was put in the neighborhood of six weeks, but Beathard went through spring practice. He missed the spring finale with a shoulder injury, which was more precautionary than anything.
Ferentz did say Beathard is winning drills.
“I’ve been winning a lot of the speed stuff,” Beathard said with a laugh. “It’s nice to be back up there again.”
Another pretty good clue on Beathard’s health was his participation in the Manning Passing Academy on June 23-26 in Thibodaux, La. Yes, it’s those Mannings — Super Bowl champions Peyton, Eli and Archie, their Hall of Fame-QB father.
Beathard joined Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner, Oregon’s Jeff Lockie, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Michigan’s John O’Korn among this year’s group of counselors.
“It was cool seeing what it’s like for them (the other QBs),” Beathard said. “Being around the Mannings was incredible.”
Some investors would give anything for an audience with Warren Buffett. Beathard had a chance to talk QB with Peyton Manning.
“I talked to Peyton about protections and how he made them work for him and we had a players’ panel with Eli and Peyton where we could bounce ideas off each other with the other college quarterbacks,” Beathard said. “It was a really good experience.”
The similarities to what Iowa does and what QBs do in the NFL left an impression.
“Today, a lot of guys run the spread offenses where they don’t have to know this stuff,” Beathard said. “It’s cool to know the stuff we’re doing here at Iowa is stuff that Peyton and they do in the NFL. It’s the same stuff, the prostyle offenses. I was able to relate with him about protections and IDs and stuff like that.
“... I came out of that camp really feeling like I was at the head of the class in my knowledge of offenses and coverages and stuff like that. Peyton said that’s valuable to know in the NFL. Coaches will be asking that at that point. The guys in spread offenses don’t have that advantage, they don’t have to do that stuff. A lot of what we do at Iowa is pretty similar to what I’ll see at the next level.”
Peyton Manning didn’t, however, tell Beathard what “Omaha,” his signature snap call, means.
Last sign of good health? Beathard’s brother, Tucker, a country music artist, posted a quick video to Twitter this summer showing a pickup basketball game between the “Beathard bros” and “locals.” C.J. is front and center, blocking a shot, dribbling up court and throwing an alley-oop dunk pass to Tucker.
He looked healthy and good to go. There is one detail to that video, however.
“No, that wasn’t a 10-foot hoop. Secret is out now,” Beathard said. “He couldn’t dunk it on a 10-foot hoop.”
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