Football kind of sneaked up on Ahmad Wagner. He played some JV his junior year at Wayne (Ohio) High School and then things shot out of a cannon.
As a senior, Wagner earned first-team all-conference and all-state with 58 catches for 1,028 yards and 17 TDs. Wayne won the state championship. Let’s throw this in, Wagner also ran the anchor leg of Wayne’s 400-meter relay, a quartet that finished fourth in the 2015 Ohio state track meet.
It didn’t take long for football coaches to figure out a 6-7, 215-pound (then, now Wagner is 235) would be pretty good to have on their team. Kentucky was the first with a football offer. Wagner did pop up on Ohio State’s radar.
The basketball die had been cast. Wagner committed to the University of Iowa and head coach Fran McCaffery.
And that’s where Wagner remained totally committed. Until this week.
The Iowa basketball junior announced his decision to leave Iowa basketball and pursue a spot on a college football team. He talked about the decision in a Wednesday teleconference.
“It’s been something on my mind,” said Wagner, who averaged 3.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in his 96-game career as a Hawkeye. “It’s hard to ignore people always asking you about football and making the change, but I always wanted to stay committed to the Iowa basketball program. I’ve been hearing people talk about it and ask me about it for a long time.”
Think about that senior season Wagner had. State title, 1,000 receiving yards and 17 TDs. That’s all fun and that was a feeling that stuck with Wagner.
“I was never really able to get rid of that feeling,” Wagner said. “Going into my senior year and having the success and the fun I did with those guys, I never really got rid of that. I’d watch football games and those memories would come back.”
So, is this as easy as walking over to Kinnick Stadium? Well, no.
Wagner acknowledged that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz reached out and that the communication has been “very respectful.”
“At this point, I’m just taking in any consideration, just listening to anyone who wants to give me an opportunity,” Wagner said. “I’m going to take it in, listen to people's offers and listen to my parents.”
Wagner played wide receiver in high school. He feels that’s his natural position, but he’s totally open to playing tight end if that’s the right fit.
“I’m just really listening to people's profession opinions and where they see me fit best,” Wagner said.
Wagner wants to get into a program as soon as possible, but he’s also not going to rush the process and so there’s no timeline. Wagner would have two years of eligibility if he stays at Iowa or transfers to an FCS school. If he goes to another FBS program, Wagner would have to sit out a year and would have just one year of eligibility. And for what it’s worth, Iowa opened spring football practice on Wednesday.
It’s quite a leap for Wagner. He was going into his senior season with a Big Ten basketball program. He hasn’t played football since 2014.
“No regrets at all,” Wagner said. “Coach McCaffery and staff have treated me with nothing but respect since the day I walked on campus, even before that when they were recruiting me. No regrets in that regard. No regrets in coming here. I’ve enjoyed all of my time playing for the men’s basketball team. No regrets at all.”
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