Iowa Football

3 Iowa offensive tackles, 3 pretty great stories

Iowa's offensive line was a huge question, but at the end, it was sitting on the Huskies


Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz (right) shakes hands with offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Brian Ferentz (left) after Kirk became the winningest coach in Hawkeyes history after their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz (right) shakes hands with offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Brian Ferentz (left) after Kirk became the winningest coach in Hawkeyes history after their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Big, emotional moment for Dalton Ferguson going through the Kinnick entrance ritual.

He tore his ACL a couple of springs ago. He played five years for free, only earning a scholarship this season as camp finished in August. He ran out on the field and teared up.

Levi Paulsen is a fourth-year junior. He’s been the utility guy, always there when Iowa needs O-linemen No. 6 or 7. Mark Kallenberger is as fresh-faced as a freshman gets.

Northern Illinois was fifth in the nation last season in sacks. Junior defensive end Sutton Smith tied for the nation’s lead with 14.0 sacks.

It was a big, emotional moment for all three of the Hawkeyes who rotated through at tackle in the Hawkeyes’ 33-7 victory on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Was Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley worried?

“You really just encourage them to put the most amount of time possible into it throughout the week,” Stanley said. “They prepared well and I think that went back all the way to the beginning of camp.”

Iowa did know a few weeks into camp that Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson, returning starters at the tackle spots, would be suspended.

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That gave just what is an unlikely trio something to aim for. They hit the mark. Sure, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz didn’t explore a ton of new territory, but the O-line held NIU to one sack (its lowest output in five games). Smith did get one sack. It probably doesn’t feel great for him, because the Hawkeyes ground out 209 rushing yards on 48 attempts, winning numbers for Iowa like 98 percent of the time.

Postgame: Iowa OT Levi Paulsen


“On one hand, all of us were worried, obviously, being short-handed going in,” Kirk Ferentz said. “But again, the thing that made us feel a little bit better was watching the guys in practice and all three of those guys have practiced well.”

Beyond the football, these guys and their stories, it’s the kind of thing that can “bring a team in,” some of that togetherness chemistry that can fuel the emotional gas tank.

Ferguson is from just up the road in Solon. He waited and hoped and worked five years for this moment. He really did tear up running out of the tunnel. And then when Nile Kinnick speech came on the stadium big screen.

“I was more anxious than nervous,” Ferguson said. “I’ve never been on a stage that high.”

Kallenberger didn’t start, but played a ton. He’s a Bettendorf kid living a childhood dream.

“I was really nervous,” Kallenberger said. “I tried to sleep last night, it really didn’t go too well. ... I went through my photo album on my phone last night and found a picture of me as a baby dressed in all Hawkeye stuff. That brought some emotions to me.”

That was the most Levi Paulsen and his twin, Landan, have played together since their days grinding away at Class 1A Woodbury Central in Moville.

That was cool, Levi said, but that brother thing just doesn’t stop at his twin brother.

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“What’s cool about the Iowa culture is, yeah, Landan is related to me by blood,” Levi said. “But once you get here and start devolving that connection with the offensive line, they’re all your brothers, too.

“In reality, it was cool. What’s really cool is going out there with your brothers every single game, every single week and really attack.”

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

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