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Home / Hawkeyes’ Gaul quietly seized his moment
IOWA CITY — Tommy Gaul entered the Iowa football complex Tuesday afternoon and walked right past a cluster of sports reporters who were there for the weekly interview session with Hawkeye players.
There's wasn't anything arrogant about it, no statement being made. It was just habit. He is in his fifth year with the Iowa program, and never had any reason to interact with the media before last weekend.
An Iowa sports information person knew I was interested in Gaul's story and led me to him. The player submitted to an interview without balking, but it was clear he didn't have any need or interest in getting any attention.
'If you wanna say that, sure,' Gaul said with a verbal shrug when I made that observation to him.
Well, Gaul's story as a key contributing player to the Hawkeyes may turn out to be pretty brief. But if so, it will forever be short and sweet.
Last Saturday, Hawkeye starting guard Jordan Walsh injured an ankle on Iowa's second offensive play in its 45-29 win over Indiana. Enter Des Moines' Gaul, a fifth-year senior, fifth-year walk-on, someone who had played just a wee bit in his career and only in mop-up time.
Austin Blythe moved from center to guard, Gaul became the center. Iowa's offense scored on six subsequent possessions. For all the hubbub about the long scoring plays the Hawkeyes had, a quiet man quietly distinguished himself in a Big Ten game.
'I don't have much to say, really,' Gaul said.
Running back Mark Weisman does, however, when the subject is Gaul.
'He comes to work every day,' Weisman said. 'He's a hard-hat, lunch pail type of guy, just working here for five years. He's never seen the field before, really. But he prepares every week like he's going to play a game.'
After all wins, the Hawkeyes congregate in their dressing room to sing the school fight song. They are shouting more than singing, really. Seniors lead the tradition. Saturday, Weisman called on Gaul to get the song started.
'Tommy definitely earned that by all means,' said Weisman. 'We were just trying to show our appreciation for what he did for the team.'
That appreciation was genuine, from players and coaches.
'It wasn't like anybody had advance notice on that one,' Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'He jumped in. That was a tough assignment because he had big, physical guys and had a guy on his nose every snap of the game.
'It's just really gratifying when you see a guy like that who has worked so hard and done things well so many days in a row and go out there and be rewarded. Nobody was happier than his teammates. It was really a good moment afterward. They really kind of prompted him to get up in front of the group and be recognized.'
Gaul kept it simple when asked why he walked on at Iowa instead of going to a smaller school to perhaps play more, what made it worthwhile to put in all the year-round work without the knowledge he'd ever be on the field for a meaningful snap.
'I like football,' he said. 'It's a fun game to play. It's great to play with the teammates I have here and for the coaches we have here. They treat walk-ons with respect here.
'I grew up in the state of Iowa. I saw the (Iowa) teams of the early 2000s and really respected how they played football and how they went about their business. I just wanted to be part of something like that.'
Walsh may be back in the lineup Saturday at Maryland and Gaul may blend back into the sideline. But he and his team will always know when his moment came, his performance spoke for itself.