Iowa Football

Fant social media thing has chilled, so has the Iowa tight end's health

Junior tight end addresses snap count debate his brother triggered on Twitter

Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant (87) runs for 9 yards on a reception against Maryland in the third quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Iowa won 23-0. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant (87) runs for 9 yards on a reception against Maryland in the third quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Iowa won 23-0. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — If we had to attach a drama-o-meter to this Fant family tweet thing, it’d rate lower than a trip to the dentist but maybe higher than going to the barber.

The big news here is that Iowa tight end Noah Fant has recovered from the concussion he suffered Oct. 6 at Minnesota. He was cleared on the Friday before the Indiana game and he went out and caught four passes for 105 yards and a TD.

But there was that other thing about the tweeting. Let’s go through the exercise.


After Iowa’s win at Minnesota, Fant’s brother, Chris, a special-education teacher and head football coach at Northwest High School in Omaha, Neb., tweeted that he was unhappy with his brother’s snap count. After Iowa’s victory at Indiana, head coach Kirk Ferentz made a joke about snap counts.

With the concussion and social media dissonance hanging over him, Fant had not spoken to the media since Iowa’s loss to Wisconsin on Sept. 22. He spoke Tuesday.

Maybe this was prickly at one point. It seems everyone has had their say and the waters are still.

“From my brother’s side, that’s my brother, that’s his opinion, I won’t turn my back on my family or anything like that,” Fant said. “From the coaches’ side, they handled it the way they thought to handle it.

“From my perspective, it really doesn’t affect me. I go in when I’m told to go in, that’s all I can really do about it. My brother and my family have their opinions, that doesn’t really matter in that situation.”

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This sort of thing doesn’t come up with the No. 18 Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) very often. And this isn’t something that’s breaking before Iowa travels to No. 16 Penn State (5-2, 2-2) for a matchup between two top 25 teams in the coaches poll. The game kicks off at Beaver Stadium 2:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).

No sign of ill will on Fant’s end. If it festers, you didn’t see anything like that Tuesday.

Fant was on the field in pads against the Gophers when this tweet was published. This wasn’t calculated. It was a proud brother going through emotions while watching his brother play in a game.

“That’s his right as my brother,” Noah Fant said. “He tweeted it and it happened. That’s my older brother. I’m not going to go tell him, ‘Hey, take that down.’ That’s the guy I’ve been looking up to my whole life. I don’t think he’s hurting me, I don’t think my family is hurting me. They only want the best for me.”

Mostly, this sounds like a prototypical awkward moment that social media so brilliantly and awfully generates.

“I don’t really go from that side of things, from the coaches perspective,” Fant said. “They don’t really care how my family feels or anything like that. Personally, I’ll always love my family. They’re not there to hurt me. They’re entitled to their opinion, though.”

This did reach the Iowa Oval Office.

Fant did have meetings with Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. He also talked with his brother.

“I’ve kind of removed myself from the whole thing,” Fant said. “I even told coaches I can’t control how things are called, how whatever is called. My job is to go in when I’m told to go in, catch the ball, score touchdowns, do all of that stuff, block. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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Throughout the season, sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson has more snaps than Fant, sometimes as many as 20 more in a game. That’s seemingly what prompted Chris Fant’s tweet, which triggered a somewhat defensive reaction from Iowa Twitter.

Hockenson’s blocking has been solid enough to earn him the in-line tight end spot. Hockenson mostly lines up at the end of the line of scrimmage in a three-point stance. Fant has spent a lot of his time split out in the slot, but does still see time inline.

In last week’s victory over Maryland, with a 25 mph wind to contend with, Hockenson played 71 snaps to Fant’s 40. Iowa ran 52 times and passed 24. Couple the game plan with Fant’s recovery from concussion, you can understand why snaps went the way they did last week.

“I don’t feel like it’s a distraction for me and my teammates,” Fant said. “Coming in and continuing to talk about it would’ve made it a distraction. Honestly, I figured those meetings were going to happen and I was going to get called in, but to me, I already moved passed it. I’m just worrying about being with my teammates and worried about playing with my team and getting on the field as much as I can.”

Fant needs to block — obviously — but you want him running routes and catching passes. He still leads the Hawkeyes with 26 receptions to go along with 312 yards and a team-high six TD receptions. Hockenson leads the Hawkeyes with 424 receiving yards on 25 receptions. He also has three TD catches.

When Fant was in concussion protocol, he couldn’t exert himself and had to limit how much time he spent in the light. Are you ready for the drama-o-meter to go wild? Hockenson texted him a few times during that, obviously offering encouragement.

“I was texting him all week, making sure he was going to make it back, making sure he was taking a nap, making sure he was getting out of the light,” Hockenson said. “We needed him last week and it showed. He had a great game and that’s what we needed out of him.”

It sounds like these two haven’t made too much out of this. Maybe there’s a lesson.

“My bond with T.J. is really well,” Fant said. “He’s a great guy and a good dude. We don’t want to pit guys against each other, especially on our own team. T.J. does the things he does, I do the things I do. We both open each other up at different points in time.

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“It’s definitely a tandem thing. One isn’t as good without the other. That goes for both cases.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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