Hlas column: Hawkeyes are all over the NFL except at one position: Quarterback.

Ricky Stanzi at Iowa's Senior Day ceremonies last November in Kinnick Stadium (Brian Ray/SourceMedia Group)
Ricky Stanzi at Iowa's Senior Day ceremonies last November in Kinnick Stadium (Brian Ray/SourceMedia Group)

No National Football League quarterback of impact ever played that position at the University of Iowa.

Thirty-eight former Hawkeyes were in NFL training camps last summer and almost all of them spent the 2010 season in the league. None were quarterbacks.

No quarterback who finished his college career at Iowa has been an NFL draftee since Matt Rodgers in 1992, and he went in the 12th round. Drew Tate was Iowa’s starting quarterback from 2004 through 2006, is a backup quarterback in the Canadian Football League.

Kurt Warner of Cedar Rapids threw more touchdown passes in his first year as an NFL starter as all ex-Iowa quarterbacks did in their entire NFL careers. Combined.

So while Ricky Stanzi won’t be the first Iowa player taken in the 2011 draft, and his name certainly won’t be called Thursday night when only the first round is selected, his is the most interesting Hawkeye story this week.

No matter when Stanzi is drafted, the question will be if he is taken by a team that will have a logical scenario for one day having him as its starting QB. The ideal situation would seem to be a club with a proven veteran at that position, giving Stanzi two or three years to hone his pro skills and be equipped to start when the chance comes down the road.

It’s been floated by a few guessers that Stanzi might get grabbed by the New England Patriots, say with the 92nd pick of the draft in Round 3. That would give Stanzi ample time to learn from Tom Brady, (who turns 34 in August) before Brady rides off to do whatever retired matinee-idols married to supermodels do.

We’ll see. Things seldom go as expected after the first five or six picks of the draft.

But let’s backtrack to the paucity of Hawkeye quarterbacks in the NFL. This hasn’t been just a Kirk Ferentz-era thing, though Stanzi will be the first Iowa quarterback to get drafted in Ferentz’s 12 years as head coach. Even 2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks didn’t get taken by anyone.

The player who was the quarterback in Iowa’s only two Rose Bowl wins was the first pick in the NFL draft. College Football Hall of Famer Randy Duncan, a Heisman runner-up himself, was picked at the start of the 1959 draft by the Green Bay Packers. But he didn’t sign with them. He spent two years in the CFL and one with the AFL’s Dallas Texans before leaving the sport to begin a career of over 45 years as an attorney in Des Moines.

“Being the No. 1 draft choice in the league wasn’t what it was now,” Duncan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2009. “So basically it came down to money. I got more to play in Canada.”

Four of Hayden Fry’s Iowa quarterbacks were drafted. Two of them, first-round pick Chuck Long and Mark Vlasic, played in the league. They threw 19 and 4 TD passes in the NFL, respectively.

Jim Youel of Vinton threw for seven NFL scores (and intercepted two passes as a defensive back) from 1946 to 1948. Jerry Niles threw a TD pass in his one season with the New York Giants, in 1947.

That’s it, 31 NFL touchdown passes from all the quarterbacks who finished their college careers at Iowa. Warner had 31 TD tosses in his NFL postseason career, 208 in the regular-season. Bragging rights, Northern Iowa.

Former Hawkeye Rudy Bukich did have 61 NFL touchdown throws from 1953 to 1968. He came to Iowa from his St. Louis home as a wingback, then transferred to USC and switched to quarterback. He was the winning quarterback when USC won the 1953 Rose Bowl, then had his long pro career. He also played a gladiator in 1960 movie epic “Spartacus.”

For a half-century, Iowa high school graduates have said “But look at Rudy Bukich” when they told their parents they needed to move to the West Coast to live more fulfilling and prosperous lives.

The burden to change that is now upon Stanzi. Former University of Iowa students have become great scientists and physicians, winners of Academy Awards and Pulitzer Prizes, leaders and trailblazers.

Is it too much to ask for one prominent NFL quarterback?


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