Three cool things:
1. Bob Sanders wasn’t a huge talker when he was a Hawkeye. You saw what he did on the field and that screamed into your ear. You could hear that for miles, not quite literally but not quite not literally.
My best interview with him was at a Cedar Rapids Maid-Rite. It was before the draft. I think it was Iowa or maybe Bob’s agent who called. The Maid-Rite was a great setting. Bob let it rip on his hopes and dreams.
(See feature story below)
2. There’s a photo coming out of this game of Sanders and Nate Kaeding celebrating Kaeding’s 55-yard field goal.
Five years later, Sanders the Indianapolis Colt drew a 15-yard taunting call after Kaeding the San Diego Charger missed a 48-yarder. Sanders pleaded with officials. Some by-the-book horsecrap. I have tremendous respect for officials. They get way more right than they do wrong. This kind of stuff, though, is galling.
3. We’ll probably get a lot more senior days into this.
That is a really tough day. So many emotion tugs at the soul, I imagine focus wanders. And then, seeing the people who’ve taken every step with you in the journey, for the last time in your home stadium, that’s got to knock you off your game at least a little.
Loved Kaeding’s quote here on senior day. Probably going to save the long Kaeding story for either 2000 Penn State or 2001 Texas Tech. Unless anyone has a better idea. I’d listen.
Quote: “Parents, grandma, grandpa, distant relatives, just seeing how caught up they get and how much pride they take in the way the team plays. I don’t want to say it means more to them than it does to me, but when you can see it, it’s really a special thing for you.” — Kicker Nate Kaeding
Note: This was Iowa’s 12th straight win at Kinnick. That was the record. Iowa would go 10 more games before it would fall in its brick building.
Why No. 77? — So many big names in this senior day, it probably could’ve climbed a little higher. Glen Mason remains the best Gophers coach Minnesota has thrown at Ferentz. Jerry Kill’s health had a say in this, and the jury is out on P.J. Fleck.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2003
IOWA CITY — In one whiplash moment of emotion, Nate Kaeding zipped from strong, happy football player to choking back deep sobs.
The minute he set his eyes on his parents, Terry and Larry, the strong, happy kicker turned into a mess.
“Parents, grandma, grandpa, distant relatives, just seeing how caught up they get and how much pride they take in the way the team plays,” Kaeding said. “I don’t want to say it means more to them than it does to me, but when you can see it, it’s really a special thing for you.”
Without going too overboard with the whole senior day thing, No. 19 Minnesota really never had a chance Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
The emotion of a senior day, sure that’s a factor. But at some point during the sobs and goodbyes, every senior on every senior day in every stadium has to play the game.
Iowa’s seniors can play.
Hawkeye seniors accounted for nearly all of Iowa’s points in the No. 20 Hawkeyes’ 40-22 victory before 70,397.
Iowa’s seniors belted out 34 of Iowa’s 40 points, with Kaeding’s four field goals boosting the Hawkeyes (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) to their 12th straight home victory, a Kinnick record.
Iowa’s 24 seniors, including 12 starters, went out winners and gave Iowa’s bowl possibilities a shot in the arm.
”You can’t get caught in the moment too much,” senior offensive tackle Robert Gallery said. “We had a game to play. I think everyone felt that was more important than anything.”
Senior quarterback Nathan Chandler completed 17 of 28 for 210 yards, an interception and a TD. Senior wide receiver Ramon Ochoa caught eight passes for 92 yards, both career highs, and a touchdown. Senior fullback Edgar Cervantes scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Junior Jermelle Lewis scored on a 34-yard run behind blocks from seniors Gallery and Ochoa.
Senior Bob Sanders made 12 tackles, including three forced fumbles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Kaeding kicked field goals of 27, 55, 33 and 38 yards. The 55-yarder tied a careerlong for Kaeding. The celebratory leap after the kick was also a career high, and the Hawkeyes held a 20-6 halftime lead with 2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Yeah, sure, senior day is just another day at work.
”Just look at the wins and losses,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “These guys have seen the 1-10, 3-9 and now they’ve been a big part of us getting back to where they want to be.”
From walk-ons to highly recruited guys, just how they’ve pulled together and done something over the last four years is really special.”
This week might’ve been the biggest “pull together” all season.
A viral infection ripped through the Iowa football complex this week. There was a whooping cough scare to boot.
The carnage included sophomore defensive tackle Matt Neubauer and sophomore tight end Mike Follett, who looked like “mummies,” Ferentz said, and were sent home after breakfast.
Offensive tackle C.J. Barkema and offensive line coach Reese Morgan went down sick Tuesday. Six to eight players needed antibiotics at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Before pregame warmups Saturday, Gallery threw up in a bucket outside the locker-room door.
“It was almost comical, but it wasn’t comical,” Ferentz said. “It’s been that kind of week for us. But when the bell sounded, they really answered.”
The flu thingie did more damage to Iowa than the Gophers (9-3, 5-3).
Never mind the stats, too.
The Gophers won the stat game, big time.
Minnesota ran 97 plays and rolled up 563 yards, including 175 yards rushing, to Iowa’s 344 yards of total offense. Quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq completed 28 of 46 passes for 388 yards and an interception. And there’s the glitch for the Gophers.
They had supermodel stats pocked by four fumbles and an interception.
“So much for statistics,” Minnesota Coach Glen Mason said. “As I’ve said so many times, figures lie and liars figure.”
The five takeaways were a season-high for the Hawkeyes, who entered Saturday’s game minus-2 in turnover margin. Entering the game, Minnesota had just 11 turnovers (five fumbles) all season.
The real two-handed head-clutcher came with just more than 2 minutes left before halftime.
True freshman running back Laurence Maroney — carrying the bulk after sophomore Marion Barber III injured a groin after two rushes for 25 yards — busted through the goal line for what looked to be a 2-yard TD run to pull the Gophers within 17-13 at half.
But Sanders crashed in from the outside, stripped the ball and covered it at Iowa’s 6-inch line.
”I thought the guy handed Bob the ball,” said senior Howard Hodges, who made 12 tackles. “All you saw was the guy had the ball, Bob hit him and then Bob popped up with the ball. I was like, ‘Did he hand it off?’”
Sanders thought he had Maroney’s foot.
“I just fell inside and ended up on top of the ball,” Sanders said. “No handoff, I just tried to go inside and landed on it.”
Nope, no handoff.
But then, no one ever gave anything to these Iowa seniors. Heck, Iowa barely gave Sanders a scholarship. Ferentz had to be talked into it, beating out Ohio University.
Think about that a minute. And then go get the bucket.
Bob Sanders feature from 2004
Ex-Hawkeye Sanders eager to make his passion his business
CEDAR RAPIDS — The old-school San Diego Padres jersey said hip-hop. But lunch said college kid in Iowa, a cheesy Maid-Rite with plenty of ketchup.
Bob Sanders is caught between two worlds.
The former all-Big Ten safety for the Iowa Hawkeyes still is in Iowa. He’s working out at the Iowa football complex with fellow NFL Draft eligibles Fred Russell and Chris Smith.
He’s also some three weeks from the NFL Draft, the new world for the 5-foot-9, 209-pounder.
“The weirdest thing that I’ve noticed is that it’s not a game anymore, it’s a business,” Sanders said Wednesday. “It’s a job. This is how I’m going to be putting food on my family’s table. I’m going to be making a living and it’s going to be my everyday job.
“I’m excited. I’m blessed to be able to do something I enjoy each and every day.
“You’re now playing with guys who are in their 30s, who have children and wives and families. You’ve got to go into it and you’ve got to be a man. You’ve got to be able to tend to your business.”
Wednesday, Sanders ate lunch at Maid-Rite West in Cedar Rapids, the backdrop for a photo shoot with ESPN The Magazine.
He chowed food — he’s up to 209 pounds, 13 more than he played at last fall, but it’s good weight, 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash weight — and asked, “Hat or no hat?”
Let’s touch on some of the hard NFL Draft stuff.
Sanders has an agent, Cleveland-based Neil Cornrich, who also lists Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz as a client. Sanders wowed the NFL combine poke-and-prod squad with a 4.36 40, 15 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press and an otherworldly 41-inch vertical leap, the highest at the combine.
“Whatever you do in life, you probably won’t experience something like that,” Sanders said. “It’s basically a place where everybody in the world who could hire you for that one job you’ve always wanted is in that one place.”
During January’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Sanders eased some scouts’ worries by flashing cover skills that he wasn’t asked to show at Iowa.
“I was a run-stopper,” said Sanders, who was a second-team all-American and first-team all-Big Ten pick last season. “I played a lot better closer to the line, I enjoyed the physical part of the game, sort of like a linebacker.”
But he knew after his sophomore year that he would have to develop cover skills, one-on-one, the complete package.
“When you get to this point, they want to see you do it all,” said Sanders, referring to NFL scouts and coaches. “They want to see that you can make it look easy.
“They didn’t see that on film (at Iowa). But I think I answered that at the Senior Bowl. They saw I could play the deep middle and play off the hashes. I was starting on the first day, but I got hurt (foot, it’s OK now, though). And down at the combine, I showed I can jump and run fast.”
Between now and the April 24-25 draft, Sanders will go through a series of workouts for teams. He did one for the New York Jets last week in Iowa City. He’s been told he’s a second- or third-rounder, but has also heard late first, maybe. Of course, he wants to go as high and as quickly as possible in the draft, but he has no expectations.
He doesn’t have a favorite NFL team. He doesn’t have a particular team or city in mind. Today, it’s old-school Padres jersey and funky Chicago Cubs hat.
“I never get nervous about it (the draft),” Sanders said. “I get excited. It’s a long wait, though. There’s another whole month left.
“But it’s like looking at something you’ve wanted your whole life and it’s a month away. It’s exciting for me, my family.”
Sanders will spend draft day with his parents, Jean and Marion, back in Erie, Pa. The three-time first-team all-Big Ten pick has resisted the temptation to go out and spend his signing bonus, which will run into seven digits. Former Iowa offensive lineman Eric Steinbach received a $1.8 million signing bonus as a second-rounder last season.
“I want to wait until I get my own, I don’t want to have to take any loans and have to owe anybody,” Sanders said. “I haven’t gotten anything yet. You’ve got to be smart. You don’t have it yet, so it’s not yours. You know you’re going to be paid in a few months, you’ve just got to be smart about it.”
You can’t argue with Sanders’ logic. And you can’t argue with his future.
For the record, he didn’t take classes this semester at Iowa. He talked with Ferentz and they decided that he could come back and finish his degree, on scholarship, after setting up in the NFL.
The course is set for the NFL Bob.
Now, the question is hat or no hat.