[Editor's note: I asked Marc to let me chime in on this one. Because this one, in my book, was the true “OK, we’ve turned it” moment.
I remember standing in Hy-Vee after midnight on New Year’s Eve, hours before this game, absolutely dreading it.
I was confident in Iowa’s talent ... but it wasn’t FLORIDA talent, you know?
I was not looking forward to another New Year’s humiliation to a national power. USC and the Orange Bowl was still too close ... and worse, the Purdue loss was even closer than that.
But, as I walked out of that store that night and went to bed, for some reason, I got confident. I cannot, to this day, say why or what happened in my psyche. I just ... was. I had a hunch. Probably had something to do with Ron Zook being on the other sideline; he could get the players, always could ... he just couldn’t coach ‘em to their full capabilities (kind of reminded me of George Raveling as Iowa’s basketball coach, sadly).
But my psyche is usually an idiot. Hey, every now and then ...
So ... here’s three cool things:
1. Three all-time Hawkeye greats, in their last game. And all three made their presences known in this game.
Robert Gallery: Outland Trophy winner, No. 2 overall NFL draft pick, a solid eight-year NFL career that was not, it must be said, “a bust.” I can still see the holes that Fred Russell ran through that day — big enough for a fleet of 10-wheel trucks.
Nate Kaeding: Groza Award winner, NFL All-Pro, nine-year NFL career. And ... he married a Marshalltown girl, which shows he has good taste (#MarshalltownStrong). When he inevitably becomes mayor of Iowa City/Coralville, I can’t say I’ll be surprised. He’s got my vote.
Bob Sanders: The people’s champion (I think he objectively tops most respectable fans’ list as baddest man to ever don the black and gold). In only seven short seasons in the pros, he was a two-time first-team NFL All-Pro, the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl champion. But in Iowa, he’s still No. 33 ... keep your head on a swivel.
2. Without question, Nathan Chandler’s finest game as a Hawkeye quarterback. Just a few weeks earlier against Purdue, I remember a play early on when he had Ramon Ochoa wide open straight up the seam — not a guy within 10 yards of him — and he overthrew him by what seemed like 25 yards. I’m surprised my television and remote control lived to see another day on that afternoon. The way he threw the ball — that shot-put thing he did, like Philip Rivers — could frustrate me to no end. But in his last game, he could do no wrong. Cemented his legacy as a winner. You know how many Iowa quarterbacks have a 10-win season under their belts? Not as many as you probably think.
And ... he threw a TD pass to Mo Brown. One of my favorite forgotten Hawkeyes. Look him up again — he deserves it.
3. Kinda fun that Florida’s quarterback that day was Chris Leak, a prized recruit Iowa “lost out on” once upon a time. And definitely fun that he was on the receiving end of Matt Roth’s legendary “Gator Chomp.”
It was either at halftime of this one or in the immediate afterglow that ESPN’s Trev Alberts said, on the air and in the moment, that “Kirk Ferentz is the best coach in college football and it isn’t close.”
Then ... 2004 happened and made him look like a genius.
But then, 2005 and the preseason top-10 ranking and Chad Greenway telling ESPN in a spring football interview (paraphrasing) “we’re sick of it being Ohio State and Michigan, then Iowa. We want it to be Iowa, then Ohio State and Michigan.” Loved the enthusiasm — it was palpable — but we all know what happened in 2005. And 2006. And 2007.
Something we learn to deal with as Iowa fans: the best seasons are always the ones you don’t see coming.
And then, when there is hype, get ready for something bad to happen. It’s sad but true. You just learn to deal with it.
Iowa football is a roller-coaster ride — learn to enjoy those highs, but be ready for the sudden drops.
— Sam Paxton, The Gazette]
Check out feature stories on Chad Greenway, Matt Roth and Robert Gallery from Marc Morehouse below.
Quote: “I think this is one more step toward credibility. We all feel good about each other right now. We’re a family and that’s kind of what it takes.” — Kirk Ferentz
Note: During a pregame news conference, UF coach Ron Zook mixed up names and thought Nate Kaeding played running back. I excused that as a simple mistake. I learned from my journo colleagues that mistakes are fun and you really should make fun of people for making them.
I guess I’m still learning that lesson.
Why No. 21? — All the games are good now. This was a really, really good one.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2003
TAMPA, Fla. — Football is a game of put up or shut up.
The Florida Gators did neither Thursday.
Even after the Hawkeyes blew off their doors with a 13-point second quarter, the Gators kept right on trash talking. In the face of a 24-point Iowa lead in the third quarter, they still chirped unfazed. One Gator defender got up in receiver Ed Hinkel’s face and did a whole bunch of head bobbing. Hinkel calmly turned and pointed to the scoreboard.
The scoreboard said it all for the No. 13 Hawkeyes.
“I just started laughing and told him to look up at the scoreboard,” Hinkel said. “I guess that’s just how Florida is.”
Running back Fred Russell earned MVP with 150 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Nathan Chandler played his best game in his last game during Iowa’s 37-17 Outback Bowl victory over No. 17 Florida. The Hawkeyes (10-3) drained the Gators (8-5), physically and mentally and sent their fans packing after Russell’s 34-yard TD run put them up 34-17 with 4:37 left in the third quarter. The Florida section of the sellout crowd of 65,372 at Raymond James Stadium bailed, leaving a bunch of maroon seats.
“They talked all the way to the end,” center Eric Rothwell said. “That’s pretty much all they did. It’s a lot easier when you just have to point at the scoreboard. You don’t have to think of anything to say back. You just point.”
The Hawkeyes can point a lot of ways.
They won their first New Year’s Day bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl. With last year’s 11-2 run, they have double-digit victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
When the rankings come out Monday, they should be in the top 10, their first back-to-back top-10 finishes since 1956-59.
“I think this is one more step toward credibility,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, still damp from the double-barrel Gatorade ambush his players executed with about two minutes left. “We all feel good about each other right now.
“We’re a family and that’s kind of what it takes.”
Iowa beat the Gators in everything except hype.
The Hawkeyes held Florida to 57 yards rushing, an Outback low. The Iowa coaches toyed with some junk defenses, but in the end, they went with the same old Norm Parker grip-and-grunt that’s become their trademark.
Florida quarterback Chris Leak, everybody’s favorite freshman, looked lost, completing 22 of 41 for 268 yards, two TDs and an interception.
Defensive linemen Matt Roth, Howard Hodges and Tyler Luebke sacked Leak.
“Same ol’ same ol’,” said cornerback Jovon Johnson, who had an interception. “When we’re doing it hard, doing it right, we don’t have to change our defense.”
Chandler, everybody’s favorite footwipe, played a flawless game. From his decision making to his bootlegs to his arm, Chandler saved his best game for his last, completing 13 of 25 for 170 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
“This is the most fun I’ve had all season,” Chandler said. “This was how I wanted to go out.”
Right out of the tunnel, Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff bumped face masks with Iowa receiver Mo Brown and laid down a riff of trash.
The Hawkeyes never took the bait.
Instead, they played the game. A strategy so crazy in this SportsCenter, sound-bite, talk-radio world, it worked to a T.
OK, the Gators had every right to talk trash for about three minutes. They held a 7-0 first-quarter lead on Leak’s 70-yard bomb to receiver Kelvin Kight with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
The Hawkeyes didn’t waver.
On their next drive, they rode Russell’s 28-yard run and running back Jermelle Lewis’ 17-yarder to set up Chandler’s 4-yard TD pass to Brown with 3:56 left.
The second quarter was all Iowa. Kicker Nate Kaeding booted the first of his three field goals, a 47-yarder. Chandler scored on a 5-yard bootleg, and Kaeding added a 32-yarder for a 20-7 halftime lead.
Meanwhile, Florida had 1 yard in the second quarter.
“After they scored the long one, no one panicked,” said Iowa strong safety Bob Sanders, who was a major part of the coverage scheme that held tight end Ben Troupe to zero catches. “No one yelled, no one pointed fingers. We just got together and said enough.”
Iowa’s roll continued on the Gators’ first series of the second half.
Sophomore wideout Matt Melloy came close to blocking punts all day. He finally got one after the Gators’ fourth-straight three-and-out. Melloy broke in from the left side, blocked the kick and then hustled into the end zone to cover the ball for a score.
It was Iowa’s fifth blocked punt this season and third TD off a blocked punt. The 27-7 lead sapped the life out of the Gators.
You know it’s your day when a reserve former walk-on from Mount Pleasant makes that play. You know it’s not your day when you set an Outback Bowl record with 10 punts.
“The other four losses, a play here and there, and we could’ve won,” Florida Coach Ron Zook said. “This one, we got beat.”
They were beat, as in dead tired, going through the motions,
“They were done (in the second half), done,” Roth said. “They looked like they wanted to go home.”
Iowa’s offensive line beat them, sitting on the Gators all day and producing 238 yards rushing, converting 7 of 18 third downs and building a nine-minute advantage in time of possession (34:10 to 25:50).
Florida had 325 yards, but a lot of it came after Iowa took a 34-10 lead. Florida’s special teams made mistake after mistake, leaving the Gators with average starting field position at their 19.
“Once one guy got going, the next guy followed and then it was a chain reaction, all over them,” guard Pete McMahon said. “Everybody had a quiet confidence and just did their jobs.”
The Hawkeyes were the quiet ones. They still made their point.
Chad Greenway feature from 2003
Hard work Greenway’s way
IOWA CITY — This drill puts freshman linebacker Ed Miles in front of him. The assignment is to hit Miles, a freshman with the body of a fifth-year senior/Greek God, and make Miles go where you want him to go.
In the next minute, he will be asked to shed 6-foot-8, 325-pound tackle Pete McMahon and track down speedy running back Fred Russell. The next minute brings No. 1 wide receiver Mo Brown and a one-on-one battle for the ball.
And this is vacation for Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway. If he were at home during spring break or summer, his life would be pigs and cows, beans and fences, silos and tractors.
Such is the life of a South Dakota farmer.
“We had Chad do a little bit of everything,” said Julie Greenway, Chad’s mom. “And he does still help. We can’t have him lying around when he gets home.”
Iowa coaches found Greenway in Mount Vernon, S.D., a tiny prairie town of 400 located 10 miles west of Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. Mount Vernon has a convenience store, a bank and a grain elevator.
If you’re not working on the farm, you’re pretty much not doing anything.
“Growing up on a farm was an excellent experience,” said Greenway, a 6-4, 240-pound sophomore. “The work ethic and just learning from my dad (Alan) how to do things the right way.”
Work days were every day that ended in “y.” They always started early. They brought whatever needed to be done.
The worst job, Chad said, was holding pigs while they were neutered, or “snipped.”
“You’d get those 40 pounders, hold them up here,” Greenway said, lifting his arms toward his shoulders.” The biggest thing you take from a farm is work ethic. I know people hear that you work on a farm, but you really do work on a farm.”
Chad really did have to help his mom an dad. The Greenway farm includes 85 cows, soybeans and some 4,000 pigs a year.
“It wasn’t like I was a slave worker,” Greenway said. “I got time to go out and have fun with my friends and play sports. But when it was time to work, I worked. Mom and Dad didn’t expect me to be a farmhand, but they expected me to help on the farm whenever time allowed.
“It kind of is vacation for me here. Back home, I’d go to sports practice, come home at 5 o’clock or so, I would work until 9 or so with my dad. I’d jump right in and help out, moving pigs or whatever.”
The fields of South Dakota have yielded some top-shelf athletes in recent years.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Miller, an NBA rookie of the year, is from Mitchell. Jared Reiner, a center on the Iowa basketball team, is from Tripp, about 50 miles south of Mount Vernon.
Yes, Mount Vernon played Tripp in basketball. Yes, Greenway and Reiner played against each other. Greenway outscored Reiner, 23-11, according to Julie Greenway.
“I probably should just leave that detail out,” she said.
She also mentioned that Chad holds the South Dakota prep triple jump record of 47 feet, 1 inch.
Somehow, the Iowa coaches found Greenway, who played nine-man football at Mount Vernon High School. (Greenway’s graduating class had 31 kids.)
Julie Greenway said it might have been Chad’s performance in helping Mount Vernon to consecutive state titles. Chad played quarterback, free safety and returned punts and kicks. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards and passed for more than 2,500 in three years.
Or maybe, she said, it was University of South Dakota Coach John Austin who steered Iowa toward Greenway. Austin spent nine years as an assistant at Iowa.
“When the Iowa coaches saw his tape a few of them wondered where the tackles were,” Julie Greenway said. “Well, that’s what’s missing in nine-man football.”
When Greenway arrived at Iowa in 2001, Iowa coaches didn’t exactly know what they had. He played safety his first 10 days of practice. Then former linebackers coach Bret Bielema tapped him on the shoulder.
“When they recruited me, it was as an athlete,” Greenway said. “No one really knows what that means. But now I’ve found my niche.”
Greenway is No. 1 at weakside linebacker. He might have made a run for No. 1 last season but suffered a torn ACL a week after spring drills. He returned for the start of the Big Ten season, at Penn State, but he was never full speed.
“That was just me trying to get on the field as soon as possible,” Greenway said.
Greenway and fellow sophomore Abdul Hodge could give Iowa the fastest pair of linebackers the school has had.
“They’re looking fast,” senior outside linebacker Grant Steen said. “They’re a little smaller than a lot of the linebackers we’ve had in the past, but they’ve got a lot of quickness and punch.”
Hodge, a 6-2, 232-pounder, is indeed a little smaller than Fred Barr, who started four years, but the thinking is what’s lost in size is gained in speed.
“Chad thinks he’s faster than me,” said Hodge, who’s from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “But I always tell him, it’s not how fast you are, it’s how fast you play football.
“But we gain from each other. I like to run to the ball. He likes to run to the ball. Sometimes we just meet at the ball, wherever the ball’s at on the field.”
The Greenways are traveling 25 strong to the spring game. It’s their first chance to see their son in a game, even if it’s half a game, as a starter.
One of those 25 will make the trip to see Hodge play.
From the small world department, Rasheed Hodge, Abdul’s younger brother, is a sophomore defensive back at Dakota Wesleyan in Mitchell.
The Greenways are hooking up Rasheed Hodge with a ride this weekend.
You just never know who’ll turn up in South Dakota.
Matt Roth feature from 2004
OAK BROOK, Ill. — The craziest thing was the chairlift fight on a Colorado mountain.
Dangling 50 feet above the runs and lodges of a Breckenridge ski resort, Matt and T.J. Roth decided to settle the argument the only way teenage brothers know how.
Right then and there.
Sitting inches apart with nowhere to go but down, who’s the best skier in the family? Ding, ding.
“It was like two cats with their tails tied together,” T.J. Roth said. “It was over who was the better skier. We got into an argument on the way up, one thing led to another, and then we caused a riot at the ski resort.”
Kelly Roth, the mom, shakes her head. She doesn’t like this story. Matt Roth, the middle brother and University of Iowa defensive end, sits at the kitchen island, stuck in a rumble of a baritone chuckle.
“I think a lot of these stories have grown over the years,” Kelly Roth said.
“Mom, it’s the truth,” said T.J., the oldest of Tom and Kelly’s four children.
Snug in your earplugs. Zip up your HAZMAT suit. Cinch up your goggles.
Before Matt Roth was an all-Big Ten and preseason All-American defensive end for the Iowa Hawkeyes, he was a rung in the ladder in the Roth household. Tom and Kelly’s four kids were born one year apart. T.J. is 23, Meghan is 22, Matt is 21 and Nick is 20.
With siblings so close, you know competition was a constant. These kids turned Saturday morning breakfast into an Olympic event.
“You could see it early, when he was young,” T.J. Roth said. “I’d do something and he’d just want to do it better, be better. We kind of built a competitive nature in each other.”
Who’s the best water skier?
“Matt,” Nick and Meghan say right away. T.J. jumps in, “Me.”
Matt was the first to handle getting up on one ski at the family’s home on Lake Delavan in Wisconsin.
“He’d blame it on everything,” Matt said. “The ski, the weather, the boat. He couldn’t take it that he just couldn’t get up. On the slopes, it was the snow. If he missed a 3-pointer, it was the shoes.”
The Roths live in Oak Brook, an upscale Chicago suburb. Tom, 47, who runs Inner space of Illinois, a construction company, took 18 months building their two-year-old home, tucked on a quiet street between I-88 and the Oak Brook Mall.
The kids did most of their growing up in Villa Park, a blue-collar suburb a few minutes from Oak Brook. Their lives revolved around sports. The three-stall garage was chopped to maybe a half stall because it was stuffed with equipment.
Instead of washing all the gear, Kelly, 45, sprayed on Febreze so the boys didn’t smell like a sweaty locker. From the time when a 4-year-old Matt won a Jim McMahon look-alike contest at the Villa Park mall to the next family golf game, sports has been a natural with the Roths.
“Sports is pretty much all the three boys did,” Tom said. “It was like a fraternity.”
Their Oak Brook home doesn’t show the scars. Matt’s room is an immaculate grotto of his days as a Hawkeye. One wall has team pictures of the three bowl teams Roth has played for — the Alamo, Orange and Outback. There’s an empty spot for ...
“Has to be the Rose Bowl,” Matt said. “That means you’ve won the Big Ten and you’re playing for something. Plus, it’s the Rose Bowl. Everyone around here knows the Rose Bowl. It means a lot. It’s the one my grandpa knows about. It’s sacred.”
Another wall is dominated by the bracket from Matt’s heavyweight state wrestling championship his senior year at Willowbrook High School. He has a team picture of his days as an All-American linebacker at Willowbrook.
On the floor is “Little Matt Roth,” a bronzed football player, about 3-feet tall, decked out in a mini Hawkeye helmet and uniform, complete with Matt’s No. 31 jersey.
Matt breaks into that baritone chuckle.
“Mom had it made for my 21st birthday,” he said. “She said I had something big coming.
“Sometimes before I go to bed, I’ve got to hide it. I think it’s going to come to life and come after me. It freaks you out a little. Kinda weird. But she meant well and it was kind of cool.”
Their Oak Brook home is new. Stone fireplace. Wood floors. And no major drywall “incidents.” It hasn’t lived through four kids, four years apart. The old house in Villa Park? Not so lucky.
“There were broken walls, furniture, pool sticks, cabinets, doors,” Matt said.
Who’s the best basketball player?
“Oh, man, it’s not even close,” said T.J., a football and basketball standout in his days at Willowbrook.
“Yeah, we’ll give him that one,” said Nick, who started at strong safety alongside Matt for a season at Willowbrook.
Video games, baseball, cards, no one got off easy.
“I never let Matt win. Still won’t. Never. Never will, either,” said T.J., a Western Illinois graduate who works in sales and helps coach youth football. “I’ll take a little bit of credit for his toughness. He got a lot of beatings. But then one day we got into a good fight and then I noticed I might as well retire as the champ, that he was getting maybe a little too big. That was my freshman year in college and his sophomore or junior year in high school.
“I was working out at school. I thought I was getting big. I come home and he’s huge. I couldn’t keep up, I guess.”
You can see where Matt gets it now.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior is the masthead for Iowa’s defense. The sacks, the sack dances, the boundless energy, Roth is embraced by Iowa fans and reviled by opponents. He’s been among the Big Ten leaders in sacks the last two seasons.
He has 22 career sacks, with eyes on the season (18, Leroy Smith in 1991) and career (42, Jared DeVries 1995-98) records. He’s a player teammates rally around.
He lifts fans out of their seats. A recent thread on a HawkeyeReport.com message board featured grown men professing their “man crushes” for Roth.
“He’s just a hard-charging, reckless, tough football player,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s not Bob Sanders (former Iowa strong safety), but you put guys like Bob and Matt in the same vein. They love to play the game.
“They’d play anytime, anywhere, any rules.”
Roth can’t stand the contrived events that ask him to make nice with opponents. He spent time this summer at a Playboy resort for a photo shoot with the other Playboy All-Americans.
This month at Big Ten media days, he sat fidgety doing interviews at tables among his Big Ten peers.
“I’ve never really wanted to hang out with guys,” Matt said. “I’m like my brother, I’m competitive. I don’t want to hang out. I want to dislike the guy in front of me. I don’t want to hang out with him.
“I don’t want to hear, `how are you doing, Matt?’ Even other guys on other teams, ‘why don’t you cheer up? Why do you always look mad or something?’ I just think, we’re not out here to hold hands and frolic. We’re here to go at it. I don’t want to be friends.”
The competitive nature built on growing up with three siblings has clearly carried over on the field. But it doesn’t stop there. Roth has had bets with fellow defensive linemen for sacks and big plays.
“We even thought about putting up our per diem money, winner take all,” Roth said. “We never did that, though.”
Roth wants the center stage on the football field. Off it, he prefers the background.
“He likes the attention,” T.J. said.
“I don’t think so,” Kelly said.
“I know he does,” T.J. said.
Here we go again.
Who’s the best poker player?
“Me,” T.J. said.
“Only because I just started,” Matt said.
Who’s the best wrestler?
“Well, yeah, that’s Matt,” T.J. said. “But one time in Iowa City I took him down.”
“Yeah, but that was at a party. There was no room,” Matt said.
Who’s the smartest?
“Meghan,” T.J. said.
“Meghan,” Matt said.
“Meghan,” Nick said.
“She won when the report cards came out,” Matt said. “That’s one aspect that we weren’t really competitive in. We all did bad, so no one could bring it up and my dad couldn’t ground all of us.”
Meghan, who works as a charity event planner in Chicago, graduated with a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois in four years. Matt is on track to graduate with a degree in health studies next spring. Nick will be a junior at Western Illinois this fall.
How about video games?
That’s Nick’s realm, but, as you’ve probably guessed, video games didn’t have a fighting chance in the Roth household.
“Matt broke them,” T.J. said.
“We all broke them,” Nick said.
All the boys spent time working on their dad’s construction sites. Their favorite job — big surprise here — was demolition.
“Breaking down walls was fun,” Matt said. “Cleaning up sucked.”
Who was the best worker?
“Matt was probably the best,” Tom said.
“But Meghan is the only one with a real job,” Matt said.
Did the boys pick up the trade? Could they go out and build their own house if they wanted?
“No, no,” Nick said. “I could go out and sweep my own house.”
Dinner with the Roths comes with beef sandwiches, pizza and chocolate cake from Portillo’s in Oak Brook. It also comes with plenty of barbs.
Who’s the funniest?
“Me,” T.J. said.
“I think Nick is coming up on you,” Meghan said. “Nick is the funniest, but it’s close.”
“Nick is the best at ripping on me,” T.J. said.
“I don’t have to worry about the verbal,” Matt said, “because I have the physical. I just punch ‘em.”
Kelly is a land developer. She has three subdivisions in Villa Park, the T.J. Roth Subdivision, the Matt Roth Subdivision and the Nick Roth Subdivision.
“Mine’s the nicest,” T.J. said.
T.J. tried to claim it, but everyone laughed and said Matt, almost in unison.
The Chicago Tribune did a story on Matt when he was at Willowbrook. The hook was his gargantuan lunches.
“Oh God, you had to ask about those,” Kelly said.
T.J. was the first, but Matt, with flames shooting up one biceps and up one calf, has the most noticeable.
“I won’t get anymore, Mom,” Matt said.
“Thank you, Matt,” Kelly said.
You know, this competition stuff is never going away. As the boys age, the sports will become slower. They’re already positioning to claim golf. “Nick is the best golfer, but that’s not saying much,” Matt said. “I blame my clubs.”
The competition stuff is fun to talk about. It’s a rallying point for memories and stories. But don’t think a lifetime of sprinting past your brothers to the chicken wings has built any barriers.
You need to see the smiles and hear the belly laughs. They put their arms around each other for a family photo in front of the fireplace.
This is a coziness you can’t fake. The loyalty they feel for each other is bursting. The pride they feel for Matt is as obvious as the tattoo on Matt’s biceps.
“Where he is isn’t a surprise to me. It’s never been,” T.J. said. “I’ve been calling his shot since his freshman year in high school.
“I’d tell my friends, he’s going to go D-I. People would say, no, no, no. And then, he does it. He’s going to be All-American, he does it. I could see it in him. I know he’s driven. I know he’s going to do it. He’s never failed me.”
The Roths immerse themselves in Iowa football Saturdays.
It’s not just Matt on the field. Dad, Mom, brothers and sister, they’re out there with him.
“I can’t sit still,” Tom said. “I’ll put some body English into it, start to lean. You feel every sack, every bump.”
That’s the way it will always be. Matt Roth is on the fast track to the NFL. He’s on draft lists. Scouts have formed a conga line to the Iowa football complex. His production at Iowa, size and speed (4.7 second 40-yard dash), speak for themselves.
This is the time of year when agents start to call. The message on Matt’s cellphone directs agents to Tom and Kelly’s number.
Tom has talked to more than a few since the beginning of the summer. It’s another round of recruiting for Matt, who wants nothing to do with it right now.
He’s completely plugged into the Hawkeyes’ upcoming season. Of course, T.J. is running the point for his brother.
“I talked to a couple agents yesterday in Chicago,” said T.J., who attended the Big Ten meetings with Matt. “One guy came up and had a portfolio of Matt, it had `Kyle Roth’ on it. He was looking at me, I was looking at him.
“I go, `So, Kyle Roth, I haven’t seen him around here.’
“He goes, `What?’
“And I go, `You mean Matt Roth?’
“And he goes, `Oh, let me see that.’ He grabs the book and he calls over the intern and yelled at him. It was weird.”
OK, agents, that’s Matt Roth.
If you get it wrong, you’ll answer to Tom, Kelly, T.J., Meghan and Nick. And you’re probably not getting the gig.
Robert Gallery feature from 2003
Gallery and Ferentz’s first class grew up, out, in 4 short years
IOWA CITY — The library at East Buchanan High School filled with 50 or 60 kids. They applauded when the lanky kid signed his national letter of intent to play football at the University of Iowa.
There was cake, Hawkeyes colors, of course. There was signing the letter, faxing it to Iowa City and then a short telephone conversation with Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz.
And there was blond hair.
Never mind the nearly 100 pounds and the full beard, Robert Gallery had blond hair at one point in his life.
Yes, the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder with the long, flowing locks of curly dark brown hair once wore the kooky, trendy dyed-blond look.
“Who knows back then,” Gallery said.
That was February 1999, one bad ‘do and nearly 100 pounds ago for Gallery, who bulked up from a 230-pound freshman tight end to a mammoth left offensive tackle and possible top-five NFL draft pick.
In February 1999, the Iowa football program was a bad ‘do and 100 pounds too light in the can.
Ferentz was hired in December ‘98 just weeks after Hayden Fry retired. He spent his first month or so finishing his run as the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line coach and trying to keep the reins on recruiting and hiring a staff at Iowa.
At the time Ferentz was hired, running back Aaron Greving and tight end Erik Jensen were Iowa’s only commitments.
Ferentz had a list left over from Fry’s staff and dug up a few new names.
“We were hitting it on the run, hitting it on the fly,” said Ferentz.
“We” meant his early coaching hires, offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe, running backs coach Carl Jackson and offensive line coach Joe Philbin.
“With the fifth-year guys, it was kind of peck and hunt.”
The “peck and hunt” fifth-year seniors, mixed with four-year seniors Bob Sanders, Nate Kaeding and Kevin Worthy, have taken Iowa on a ride that has included an undefeated Big Ten season, the first in 80 years at Iowa.
Eleven seniors will start their final game Saturday at Kinnick Stadium when the No. 20 Hawkeyes (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) host No. 19 Minnesota (9-2, 5-2).
While Ferentz and his small band of assistants pecked and hunted, Iowa’s possible recruits scratched and wondered.
Who was Ferentz and why wasn’t he Bobby Stoops?
Maybe that Stoops thing wasn’t so much Iowa’s recruits as it was Iowa’s fans, but there was still a little getting to know Kirk Ferentz.
“I really didn’t know a whole lot about him,” Gallery said. “I knew that he coached in the NFL and was here in the ‘80s. Other than that, I really didn’t know.
“Everybody made a big deal out of Stoops and all that. I didn’t know much about him, either. I was glad when they did hire (Ferentz) and when I did get to meet him for the first time, I knew the university made the right decision no matter what all the fans thought or what everybody was complaining about.”
The common theme is that first meeting with Ferentz, who apparently has the closing skills of a rabid realtor.
“You can tell a man’s character,” senior defensive tackle Jared Clauss said. “You can tell when you meet somebody what kind of person they are. I knew we were going to win eventually because they were going to get it done.”
Here is what Ferentz and his staff found in one frantic month of recruiting in January ‘99:
Three starters on this season’s O-line, Gallery, Eric Rothwell and Sam Aiello. Tight end Erik Jensen, who actually committed before Fry left and then decided to stick with Iowa when Ferentz arrived.
Two starters who’ll carry and catch the ball Saturday, fullback Edgar Cervantes and wide receiver Ramon Ochoa, who were brought to Iowa from East L.A. by former Iowa assistant Chuck Long, now offensive coordinator at No. 1 Oklahoma.
Two starters on the defensive line, Clauss and end Howard Hodges. And outside linebacker Grant Steen, a former walk-on.
“You had to try to go through the list, try to meet all the guys, try to get a feel for who you like the best,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think I looked at one of them on tape. I didn’t have time.”
Looking at the tape now, Gallery had the blond highlights and hopes of four years of catching passes as a tight end at Iowa.
“They said they wouldn’t move me to tackle as long as I catch passes and stay fast,” said Gallery, then a high school high jump ace with a personal best of 6-5. “They’ll let me stay at tight end.”
But during Gallery’s redshirt freshman season, five games and three catches into his career as a tight end, backup tackle David Porter injured his ankle going into Iowa’s 2000 Big Ten opener at Indiana.
Gallery went from No. 85 to No. 78. Three practices after switching, Gallery played tackle in the second quarter against the Hoosiers.
“I knew I’d have the opportunity to be a lineman at some point, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen,” Gallery said. “I didn’t know I was going to gain 50 pounds my first semester.
“You don’t really know what’s going to happen. I knew it was going to be fun, it was going to be a ride and it’s been all that.”