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Jeremiah Pittman and Iowa ‘clicked really well,’ even without an in-person visit
Jeremiah Pittman didn't need to make the trip to know he was going to the University of Iowa to play football.
He'd been to Northwestern and Iowa State, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittman's visit to Iowa was virtual. Coaches took him through the facilities in a series of calls.
'I was supposed to hit Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa over spring break, which was a week after we had the shutdown,' Pittman said. 'We clicked really well with coach (Kelvin) Bell and Coach Kirk Ferentz, they do things a little bit old school, which I liked that, as well as my family did given my church background.'
The Arlington Heights, Ill., defensive tackle out of St. Viator High School has had to wait on a lot of things. He did finally get a driving tour of Iowa that fall, which he had time for, given his senior high school football season was postponed until the spring.
But it was never a question of whether or not he'd play it.
'Injury is always a possibility, but I never want to play in fear,' Pittman said. 'Whatever God has planned, that's what's going to happen, but I never had any reservations whatsoever.'
Since Pittman goes to a private high school in Illinois, he still had classes in person. His team had a few contact practices in the fall, but mostly stuck to lifting and conditioning.
Spring football was difficult with the February weather and a shorter preseason than the usual fall two-a-days. But St. Viator head coach Dave Archibald said the Zoom meetings and strength training allowed his players to grow in different ways.
'We got into more depth in our scheme that we wouldn't be able to at that point in time during a normally scheduled year,' Archibald said. 'It's really exciting, especially for the seniors in the program. There were those times where you knew that if things didn't go the way we had hoped, that they could be graduating without playing a football game.'
Pittman was patient going into this season, knowing it may not happen. He tried to focus on his fitness, gaining speed to couple the strength and weight he wanted for not just his senior season, but also to be ready to make an impact at Iowa.
He's spent his high school years trying different diets and workouts to become the athlete he is.
Pittman played varsity at 245 pounds during his freshman year and gained 30 pounds going into his sophomore year. While he was still quick on his feet, he felt better if he trimmed a few pounds after experiencing a nagging ankle injury.
'I could still move, but I knew that wasn't the healthiest way to play,' Pittman said.
In January and February following his sophomore season, Pittman went vegetarian four to six days a week and jumped rope to enhance his cardio. It was something he said he was best able to control.
'When I started jump roping, 1,000 a day kind of became the norm, and then I would add on from there,' Pittman said. 'We tweaked to 1,400, I'd do sets of 200 or 300.'
At his best, he thinks it took him 45 seconds to do 100 jumps. He dropped to 255 pounds in the offseason, which was as much as he could lose because of his muscle mass. He was back to up a playing weight at 260 for his junior year. He's currently listed at 6-foot-3, 265 on the Iowa website.
With the extended offseason in the weight room due to COVID-19, Pittman put on more muscle. He said he had never focused so much on his back muscles, and now it's his favorite day in the weight room. Part of what drew him to Iowa was knowing he would get top-notch regimented weight and nutritional training.
But he's always been the big kid. His mother, Lena Pittman, said people were suspicious of his age.
'When he was playing for the park district, parents would come to the field and kind of look at him and say, 'Are you sure he's in seventh grade and not on varsity?'' Lena said.
And it's been apparent since the first day he set foot on a football field in second grade.
'I remember when he first went out for football with the Arlington Cowboys, maybe the whole field was covered with all these kids who are trying out,' Lena said. 'When he was leading the crew across the field, it was cool to see him and his ability at that young level.'
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