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ORLANDO, Fla. — Iowa players could have gone pretty much anywhere with just about anyone with some free time on the Monday night leading up to the Citrus Bowl — their second night and first full day in Orlando.
Quarterbacks Alex Padilla and Spencer Petras picked dinner with each other at a nearby seafood restaurant. Just them. Nobody else.
As Petras and Padilla competed for starting quarterback opportunities in 2021, they’ve also been “best friends,” as Petras described it.
“We have a great friendship,” Padilla said. “We spend more time with each other than anyone else.”
The two quarterbacks have gone through similar experiences while competing for the starting spot.
“We both want to be the starter obviously, but only one guy can be out there,” Padilla said.
That friendship was especially on display when the future of the top quarterback spot was up in the air while Petras was hurt and Padilla impressed coaches.
After Padilla earned his first start in the Nov. 13 win over Minnesota, wide receiver Keagan Johnson went out of his way to laud Petras’ willingness to help Padilla and others in the postgame news conference
“I want to talk about Spencer, though,” Johnson said as he answered a question about Padilla’s preparations. “How he has supported Alex through this week — still a great leader on the sidelines.”
Petras and Padilla were already best friends well before the 2021 quarterback competition, though, Petras said.
“That was true before the season, it’s still true and it will be true moving forward,” Petras said following Iowa’s loss in the Citrus Bowl.
Padilla had three starts and Petras had two in Iowa’s last five games although Petras came out as the apparent winner of the 2021 quarterback competition.
He earned the start in the Big Ten championship game and Citrus Bowl.
When Padilla replaced Petras in the former of those games, Ferentz said the change was the result of Petras’ torso injury.
The coaching staff remained coy about who would start in the Citrus Bowl, but offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz did say the staff “pretty much made our mind up” in his Wednesday news conference — three days before the bowl game and before two practices started that week.
Petras completed 57 percent of his passes, threw 10 touchdowns and suffered nine interceptions. Padilla, meanwhile, completed 48.7 percent of his passes and had two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Petras also had the superior Pro Football Focus offensive grade in 2021 — 73.9 versus Padilla’s 64.8.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz signaled his preference is for the best friends to stay in Iowa City and compete for the starting job in 2022.
“I'm hoping they both stay here and let the best man win, one of those types of deals,” Kirk Ferentz said on Dec. 23.
Recent history in the Big Ten shows — when two quarterbacks have as many in-game throws as Petras and Padilla both had — at least one usually leaves. Whether Petras and Padilla’s friendship trumps that trend remains to be seen.
“I'll think about the future when that comes,” Padilla said ahead of the Citrus Bowl.
Regardless of who is the better quarterback and whether they’ll both be wearing black and gold, Padilla has convincing evidence that he’s the better seafood eater.
Padilla ordered Dungeness crab, a half-pound of shrimp and a pound of crawfish at that Monday night dinner.
Petras had the same thing, Padilla said, “although he got his a little spicier.”
“It might’ve been a little too spicy for him,” Padilla said.
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