Three cool things:
1. Norm Parker finally became frustrated with trying to walk reporters through Georgia Tech’s offense and just started moving around whatever he could find in front of him.
Maybe the microphone was the QB. The bottle of water was for sure the running back. Fullback might’ve been a lost digital recorder.
This wasn’t cutesy affectation. And you can tell the difference. Cutesy affectation coach would smile when doing this. Parker’s eyes got steely, his tone took on purpose.
He really was playing the 2010 Orange Bowl.
The 68-year-old Iowa defensive coordinator was using a wheelchair a lot at that point because of diabetes’ effects on his body.
Parker didn’t even blink. He diagnosed Tech’s triple-option offense back in the 1970s. He probably had to move some stacks of playbooks in the office to find that particular game plan, but he knew exactly where he was looking.
Parker worked on the most vital elements of Iowa’s game plan. He energized DE Adrian Clayborn, who earned Orange Bowl MVP with two sacks. He coached middle linebacker Pat Angerer where exactly to attack that offense. I’m not sure he had to coach OLB A.J. Edds, but you know that relationship was tightly bound.
The thing about bowl weeks, and I really do truly enjoy this, is you’re physically around the team more. You see stuff. One time, Chris Doyle purposely walked in front of my camera while I was shooting a video. Ah well, I didn’t know what the heck I was shooting anyway.
We saw a lot of Parker. He clearly was in the ravages of diabetes, the disease that would eventually cause amputation of part of his right leg the very next season in 2010.
He walked slowly. He needed help getting up to speak at this news conference. He already was using the wheelchair quite a bit.
He looked frail. He spoke like a defensive coordinator/fighter pilot on a mission.
The mission was shooting for Iowa’s most prestigious — I think this is the best way to put this — bowl victory since the 1959 Rose Bowl. And it had to come against an offense that had like seven three-and-outs all season.
Parker still had it. Absolutely, he still had it.
”I would just say Norm Parker,” Clayborn said. “He put together a great plan for us, and we executed it. That’s pretty much the reason why we stopped it. I mean, without Coach Parker we wouldn’t have been able to work our blocks and get off and make tackles.”
Big Ten media days really suck now. Lots of writers, TV, media. Lots of people who look like interns. Lots of questions. Not really all that productive (unless you just try to go in and do one thing and just try to entertain yourself, hopefully it translates).
I did slide one question into Kirk Ferentz. I could’ve stayed for more, but the Ohio State guy was dominating things. I asked Ferentz if Iowa’s 4-3 was Parker or him?
“That was Norm,” Ferentz said. “Going back 100 years now, we interviewed three guys (for Parker’s DC spot in 1998). We hired Norm. One of the other guys went on to become a very successful head coach and has had a great career and still is having a great career.
“But my initiative back then was hiring the best person and best fit. It wasn’t ‘I want a 4-3 guy, I want a 3-4 guy.’ Norm was the best person for the job and that was it.”
Ferentz knew Norm had seen a lot. In life. In football. Not all of it was picture book. Before Parker was hired at Iowa, he coordinated defenses for Vanderbilt.
”I think I walked into Norm’s office probably 3 1/2 weeks now, maybe four, somewhere in that ballpark,” Ferentz said after Iowa held the Yellow Jackets to 155 yards in the game. “You know, it struck me. I walked out and he was talking about the option, how they used to play it all the time in spring practice, preseason camp and all season long in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“And a couple years ago everybody thought Norm was too old. Now maybe it’s good we had that wisdom. It seems no matter who we play, he gets our defense ready.”
You know what? Big-time, empty-calorie offenses are great and fun and all of that. This is me stopping myself from being an old grump. I was going to call spread offenses “hipster” offenses, but no one seems to mind being called that much anymore, you bunch of hipsters.
Defense wins championships. Sucks, I know, but it’s true and you know it.
I think Ferentz probably had that in his head in December of 1998. He spent nine years coaching under Hayden Fry. Ferentz saw Andre Tippett play live football.
And then he hired Norm Parker and it definitely became Iowa’s thing.
I was able to get one more question into Ferentz in Chicago. “You’ve gotten 20 years out of your 4-3 defense. How are you going to get 20 more?”
He smiled. I laughed.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said.
It’s still Norm’s 4-3. You talk about legacies, certainly Ferentz is in that mode. When a coach spends 20 years with a school and a program, there are lieutenants who keep the oars churning.
Ferentz burned the boats with Norm — that was a Normism, by the way — and that is a tremendous legacy in Iowa City.
2. This was OT Bryan Bulaga’s last day as a Hawkeye. I don’t know how he’s done it, but outside of Shonn Greene, Ferentz has put the clamps on NFL announcements in the postgames of bowls. Even for bowls they’ve won.
Bulaga is a smart guy. He followed Ferentz’s deal, but he basically said goodbye without saying goodbye.
”There’s a chance that I could blow out my knee and be a half step slower,” Bulaga said. “You can’t have that kind of stuff. I was already at a point in my career earlier this year with the thyroid scare. You have to consider all of those things because any of those things can happen tomorrow.”
I walked away from that interview knowing he would win a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers. (Not really, but hey, this Packers owner is not complaining. You guys knew that, right?)
Actually, you all should be rooting hard for Bulaga right now. He suffered I believe his second ACL tear last year. He’s been in the league now for nine years. Everything I’ve seen says he’s having a great camp. I know a lot of you guys are Bears fans. I’ll never understand that, but it is what it is. Give Bulaga some positive vibes. You guys always say that “Once a Hawkeye” thing.
3. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Ricky Stanzi now. Since he left Iowa after the 2010 season, you know he’s been on the fringes of the NFL, CFL and played some spring football this year.
The former Hawkeye QB doesn’t have a ride this year. Not yet. Football is crazy. Players get injured and street free agents walk in all of the time. As it stands now, though, Stanzi was released by the Calgary Stampeders on June 19.
I’m totally hoping Stanzi finds a broadcast booth. I think we’d all win that one.
Stanzi credited his parents, Joe and Mary Jane, for his media savvy. His mom is a hairdresser in Mentor, Ohio, Stanzi’s hometown. His dad is a portfolio manager.
”They have street smarts, people skills, stuff like that,” Stanzi said. “They’ve taught me those things indirectly.
“It definitely helps a lot when you’re talking with the media. After a bad game, you don’t want to talk about it, but you have to. After a big game, you do want to talk about it, but you have to know how to be humble about it. Doing those two things is a big challenge.”
Check out the Stanzi story below. (No, it’s not the “Yay, America” story. I still have my “Just Try to Ruin My Day” wristband. It’s on the dresser. Helps me think of good fortune. RIP Brian. I’ll never forget you.)
Quote: “This is a great night.” — Kirk Ferentz
Note: What if Stanzi’s ankle doesn’t blow up in the Northwestern game? I’m sorry.
Why No. 13? — Iowa’s most prestigious bowl victory since 1959.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2010
MIAMI — They paused to touch the trophy, the Orange Bowl trophy, there on the field platform. It was real. It was theirs. The season of dreams, and sometimes nightmares, was now indelible. And there was the hardware, golden and shiny and permanent, to confirm it.
From national punching bag when they were 9-0 and threatening to inflict Big Ten on the BCS to Orange Bowl winner.
In several implausible leaps. Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
Freshman running back Brandon Wegher’s 32-yard TD run with 1:56 left sealed a 24-14 victory Tuesday night over Georgia Tech before 66,131 mostly Iowa fans at Land Shark Stadium.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi tossed two touchdown passes. Iowa’s defense pulled the plug on the Yellow Jackets’ heralded triple-option offense. And the Hawkeyes (11-2) won their first major bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl.
Iowa’s defense should’ve been the Orange Bowl MVP. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn won it after two sacks, but it was the defense that held Tech to nine first downs and 155 total yards that earned it.
“It feels good,” Clayborn said. “I give all the props to coach Norm Parker for putting together a great game plan.”
They touched the trophy. They righted the wrong that rankled Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz so much after the 38-17 thud against USC in the 2003 Orange Bowl. They carried the Big Ten banner, clinching a 4-3 record for the league and two BCS bowl victories.
Stanzi, who had not played since suffering a sprained ankle against Northwestern on Nov. 7, completed 17 of 29 for 231 yards, two TDs and a pick six that kept Tech (11-3) in the game.
“It was great having Rick back,” Ferentz said.
Tech came out of the locker room storming after falling behind 14-7 in the first half.
The Jackets marched 12 plays and ate 7:10 off the clock. Their drive stalled at Iowa’s 24 after a false-start penalty on offensive tackle Austin Barrick. And then, kicker Scott Blair, normally very reliable, sliced a 41-yard field goal wide right.
So, 12 plays and more than seven minutes for nothing.
Iowa then found the rhythm it lost in the first quarter.
Facing a second-and-19 after a holding call on left tackle Bryan Bulaga, Stanzi hit tight end Tony Moeaki for a 23-yard gain to the 50. Moeaki (6-4, 250 pounds) basically posted up safety Morgan Burnett (6-1, 210).
Iowa came this close to a first-and-goal, but Sandeman dropped a pass that would’ve given the Hawkeyes first down inside the 10. The Hawkeyes settled for Daniel Murray’s 33-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead with 2:17 left in the third quarter.
Tech’s big shift after a first half in which it produced its fewest yards in 20 years was attacking the perimeter. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt started pitching the ball to the outside and running a speed option right at Iowa’s defensive ends, who were left in the dust in the third quarter after a brilliant first half.
Tech narrowed Iowa’s lead to 17-14 on an 11-play, 71-yard drive that was all rush, including 32 yards from star back Jonathan Dwyer. A-back Anthony Allen bashed in from the 1 with 12:30 left in the game.
On Georgia Tech’s next series, outside linebacker A.J. Edds stepped in front of a Nesbitt pass and returned it to Tech’s 15. Edds followed A-back Embry Peeples perfectly on his wheel route. But Tech, dancing through arrows all night, dodged yet another one.
On fourth-and-4 from the 4, holder Ryan Donahue pitched to Murray, who took off around the right end. Tech safety Morgan Burnett sniffed it out and tackled Murray inside the 10. Murray fumbled and Tech recovered at its 12 with 6:46 left. Again, Tech had a chance to take the lead. The Jackets didn’t want it, though.
This time, Dwyer got spun by safety Tyler Sash and run backward into the end zone. He dodged Clayborn and another Iowa defender before just barely getting the ball over the goal line. Tech ended up going three-and-out for the fifth time.
Iowa took over at its 37 with 4:54 left. Drain 4:54 off the clock and win the school’s first major bowl since 1959 and secure Iowa’s second 11-win season. They did better than that. Just as they had all night. Iowa ran left, behind Bulaga and Wegher broke it wide for a TD. He finished with 16 carries for 113 yards.
“These guys have just fought hard each and every game,” Ferentz said. “This is a great night.”
The Hawkeyes ran the road gamut this season, winning at Iowa State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. When they won, they ran around the stadium rail, high-fiving fans.
They did that again Tuesday night. Then they went and touched an Orange Bowl Trophy.
Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
Ricky Stanzi feature from 2010
Lending his wrist
IOWA CITY — The moment was a blur, just how life is.
The tall figure is Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi jogging off the field after the Hawkeyes’ 37-6 victory over Michigan State. The shorter, blonder blur is Sandy Harter.
She smartly positioned herself just before the tunnel entrance in all the big craziness of a Kinnick field rush.
“My youngest daughter (Allison) went to the game with me and after the game as everyone was going on the field she looked at me and said ‘Let’s go ... jump!’” Harter said. “Next thing I know we are over the wall running on the field and heading to the tunnel.”
Earlier in the week, Sandy sent a package to the Iowa football complex with a few wristbands, hoping Stanzi would receive them and maybe send a get well message.
Saturday, she just took matters into her own hands. She had one thought, “Get Stanzi a bracelet.”
”Afterward, I looked at my daughter Allison, got a little teary eyed and hugged her in excitement knowing that my son-in-law would appreciate knowing that Ricky had his band.
“By the way, I am only 5 foot tall, but Ricky seems like the gentle giant to me!”
Mission accomplished. Stanzi had the wristband on among his many on Tuesday. Except, Stanzi had no idea what this bracelet was about.
“She started yelling and said, ‘Can you wear this for my kid,’” Stanzi said. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’”
The band reads “Just Try And Ruin My Day.”
”I don’t know what it means or who it’s for, but it’s on my wrist,” Stanzi said. “I told her I’d wear it, so I’d feel bad if I didn’t have it on.”
“Just Try And Ruin My Day” is very real. It’s the story of Brian Pritchard and his fight with lymphoma. Sandy, of Cedar Rapids, is Brian’s mother-in-law.
Brian has kept an internet journal of his battle.
Brian said his personal motto while in college was “Just Try And Ruin My Day.” Today, it’s his personal call to battle.
“Of course, the colors were obvious,” he said.
The band is black with “Just Try And Ruin My Day” written in gold letters.
On the top of the site, it says:
”Welcome to the official support site of Brian and Stacey Pritchard’s fight against cancer. Thank you for visiting. Please share this site with all friends, family and co-workers as the goal of this site is to help the Pritchards by gaining donations but it also will build cancer awareness among your peers.”
Pritchard is in a tooth-and-nail fight with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was diagnosed in April. It was stage 4 and already had spread to his lymphatic system. He started round 10 of chemotherapy last Tuesday.
From his site:
“I am ready for round 10 and it starts in the morning. I am getting 2 new Chemo drugs starting tomorrow morning. I am feeling good mentally and physically and am ready to fight! We need all of your thoughts and prayers with us this week. We need to just find the right mix that can kill this cancer so that we can move on to the next steps in my treatment.”
Spend two seconds on the site and you’ll see Brian and Stacey are giant Hawkeye fans. You may have high-fived at some point in the Kinnick bleachers. That’s how the high-fiving works. Everyone and anyone around you gets one.
Stacey wrote this in a post after finding out last Thursday the cancer had spread:
“I understand how IOWA felt this week after last week’s heart breaker (a 31-30 loss to Wisconsin). It was inspiring to see how the team picked their heads up and dominated this week. That is how were are going to approach this new treatment plan. WE WILL WIN, WE WILL DOMINATE IT. (I still say if Clayborn and the rest of the D-line comes and just stares at Brian’s arm it will disappear.)”
Stanzi has been wearing wristbands in support of sick children since his first days on the Iowa campus. He’s met a few of kids through the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics and the UI Dance Marathon. He’s also made some of his own connections.
“You wear them for support, but at the same time, they kind of remind you what you’re doing is on a small scale compared to the kind of battles they have to go through every single day,” he said this summer.
Brian Pritchard is 25. He’s originally from Center Point. He works at Wells Fargo. Stacey Pritchard is in her final year of physical therapy school at Des Moines University. They met as undergrads at the University of Northern Iowa.
“I have learned so much from him these last couple of years he has been married to my daughter,” Sandy said. “His wisdom, thoughtfulness and compassion are an inspiration.”
Brian Pritchard has cancer. He feels your thoughts and prayers, he said from home on Thursday. He wants to share his fight.
All of this came from Sandy Harter’s leap out of the Kinnick Stadium bleachers. Kind of a leap of faith. That’s how life works sometimes.