CHICAGO — The whole “winning the press conference” idea is such a veneer. It’s mostly about entertainment and engagement, something that college football has people do for it.
You don’t win anything with talk. But you can make your points, give some insight and, well, have some fun.
For Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley at Tuesday’s Big Ten media days, throw in the obvious growth and maturity and, well sure, maybe you can “win a news conference.”
At one point, Stanley kind of looked up and honestly assessed his journey as far as “face of the program” goes. The question was, could you imagine doing this a year ago?
“There’s no way, no way,” said Stanley, who did smile at this question and almost actually reclined in his chair in his midnight blue suit with sharp yellow tie.
Stanley would rather have an NFL-caliber defensive end bearing down on his blindside than speak publicly. With last season being his first as Iowa’s starter, there were visible nerves at times during interviews and some awkward pauses. That was gone Tuesday.
Yes, Iowa preps these guys for an hour of sitting in front of media and fielding questions. If Stanley improves this much on the field, everyone is getting a ring.
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“Media stuff isn’t my favorite thing to do,” Stanley said. “But I’m really honored to be chosen to come. After learning about it, with Josey (Jewell) being the only other junior picked, I’m just really honored he sees me as a face of the program and as a leader.”
Compare to a pass rush?
“It’s a different kind of difficult,” Stanley said.
So, let’s get to the fun stuff. There will be plenty of time for the football later.
Stanley’s life in Iowa City didn’t change a ton after 26 TD passes, just six picks and a monster win over Ohio State.
“I guess I don’t really notice if people notice me or stuff like that,” he said. “I just kind of go about my business. It’s a cool town and everybody has their own aspirations and things they’re doing in life, too. It’s kind of nice to have two ends of the spectrum.”
That actually says a ton about Iowa City. A good ton.
Stanley is just getting back on Instagram. He won’t do Twitter and, of course, as a Hawkeye football player, he can’t. He deleted his Facebook halfway through his junior year. (“I had some maybe not the best conversations with GAs and whoever.”) He also made his Hudl profile — that’s the online depository for prep highlights — private. He didn’t want to distract from what his prep team was trying to do.
His recruiting was almost stealth. He beamed in on Iowa fairly quickly.
“My mom (Donita) grew up in Iowa about an hour and 45 minutes from Iowa City (Wellsburg),” Stanley said. “My dad (Jay) grew up in Illinois, an hour and 45 minutes the other way. So, I knew that I had a good support system close to me.”
Stanley lives with linebacker Kristian Welch, a fellow Wisconsin native, and defensive lineman Austin Schulte. Here’s what they do for fun:
“We fish a lot,” Stanley said. “We shoot trap a lot. Anything outside, really. We’ll grill with some of our other friends, like Keith Duncan (kicker), (tight end) T.J. Hockenson, (linebacker) Nick Niemann, (linebacker) Nick Anderson on the weekends and play yard games or whatever.”
Stanley has been downtown, Ped Mall or whatever part of the bar scene you want to call Iowa City once. It was during his recruiting visit.
“The socialness of going downtown is something I don’t do a whole lot,” Stanley said. “I haven’t really been downtown. I like to hang out with some of my closer friends, grilling out or just hanging out.”
He doesn’t play a lot of video games. He plays this real-life thing called MAJOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL. He has started messing around with the John Madden football game.
“I recently have gotten good at Madden and NCAA football,” Stanley said. And then he smiled. “Maybe that’s because I actually play quarterback.”
Stanley played high-level prep basketball. He’s Menomonie’s all-time leading scorer. His dad was the head coach from the time Stanley was born until fifth grade. He started playing the game when he was 3. And, sorry Kirk Ferentz, he will poke his head into an occasional open gym.
“I’d like to think I could, maybe not at the Division I level, but some level,” Stanley said. “Maybe.”
He misses basketball and baseball — he hit 92 more than once at Menomonie — but his favorite sport?
“Whatever season it was.”
It wasn’t an easy decision to pick football as the pursuit. Stanley has a brother who walked on to play football at North Dakota. His parents laid it out there for him. If the goal is free college and a free education, football had the best odds.
“Knowing that football was the best opportunity to get my education paid for was something they really laid out for me,” he said. “That made my decision a lot easier.”
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Along with that, Stanley revealed that the different position groups do joke and talk smack about which group would be the best at basketball. Stanley is flying the QB flag, of course. Never mind the fact that the D-line could field a frontcourt of 6-8 Matt Nelson, 6-7 Anthony Nelson, 6-5 Chancey Golston and 6-5 A.J. Epenesa.
“When Drew (Cook) was a quarterback, I think we had a better chance of sticking with the defensive linemen,” Stanley said. “Matt and Anthony and Epenesa and Chauncey ..."
Stanley realized what he was saying.
“That starting lineup would be menacing,” he said. “6-5 across the board.”
What would be the key to beating them on the floor?
Wait, no downtown? Isn’t that why Iowa City exists?
“It’s never really been my scene,” Stanley said. “I just don’t think I’d have a good time.”
So, coach Kirk Ferentz, did you grow this kid in a Petri dish?
“You can see what the attraction would be,” Ferentz said with a laugh. “You never know how people and families will handle recruiting. He couldn’t care less about that. That’s old school, if you will. He’s more worried about what he’s doing in the community.
“If you’re good, you don’t have to broadcast it.”
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