116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa has had some success lately with free safeties who arrived on campus as walk-ons.
Jack Koerner started the last three years and had a stint on the New Orleans Saints’ training camp roster.
Jake Gervase started the two previous years, and he became a Super Bowl champion in February.
Looking ahead, the Hawkeyes might have another walk-on-turned-starting-free-safety in 2022.
Former Cedar Rapids Xavier standout Quinn Schulte is well-positioned to compete for Iowa’s starting free safety job.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said in April that Schulte “hasn’t really been noticeable” in a good way.
“Balls aren’t going over his head,” Ferentz said. “That’s a really good thing. He just plays steady. He’s where he should be, makes the plays he should make.”
Schulte was the first-team free safety on the depth chart going into spring practice although he’ll likely have some competition with incoming freshman Xavier Nwankpa, a former five-star recruit.
The Hawkeyes’ track record of walk-ons contributing and starting at the safety position was a factor as a recruit when Schulte chose between Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. His father, Xavier football coach Duane Schulte, had told him about former Hawkeye safety Derek Pagel, who went on to an NFL career.
“I knew that it’d be a good possibility to come here,” Quinn Schulte said Thursday. “Here at Iowa, they just gave everyone a chance.”
Schulte played 156 snaps as a sophomore, according to Pro Football Focus, while backing up Koerner and grabbed his first career interception late in Iowa’s win at Maryland.
He certainly didn’t squander the time with Koerner, who was a permanent team captain and all-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021.
“I was right next to him probably every single day, trying to ask him questions and everything,” Schulte said.
Schulte called Koerner a “great football player, but an even better person.”
“Getting to be behind him for the past couple of years was tremendous,” Schulte said. “He’s helped me so much along the way, and I probably wouldn’t be here without him.”
Now that Koerner is gone and Schulte is on the first-team line of the latest depth chart, he’s doing some of the things he picked up from Koerner.
“The way that he performed and went about his work — it’s the way that I try to go about mine,” Schulte said.
The Cedar Rapids native isn’t exactly getting caught up in the new scenario as the top free safety on Iowa’s spring depth chart.
“Not much has changed, to be honest,” Schulte said. “It’s still the same stuff. It’s still the same defense.”
The 6-foot-1 safety spent the spring focused on “more communication in the back end.”
“That’s going to be the key, come the fall,” Schulte said. “So just being on the same page with whoever’s out there.”
Schulte did enough in the spring to impress Ferentz.
“He’s quietly done a really good job,” Ferentz said after the open spring practice. “He’s improved with every turn.”
The first name that came to mind to Ferentz in that spring press conference while talking about Schulte? Koerner.
“You think about a guy like Jack Koerner who played so well, so long,” Ferentz said.
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