Iowa Football

Ryan Schmidt's life as the career backup at Iowa: 5 years, no snaps and no regrets

Iowa QB would love to get 1 snap, but he'll take anonymity as long as the Hawkeyes win

Iowa quarterback Ryan Schmidt. (The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Ryan Schmidt. (The Gazette)

EVANSTON, Ill. — The alarm goes off no matter what. The ride to practice happens. The helmet, shoulder pads and cleats are strapped on.

There’s a mess of downloads on the iPad from quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe. In Ryan Schmidt’s case, the opponent’s offense is front and center. Scout team duty does introduce you to a world of college football offenses.

The weight room doesn’t go away. Summer conditioning is waiting to take your breath away. Maybe defensive end A.J. Epenesa runs you over. Scout team is live action on occasion.

The team, the game, it doesn’t care about your chances of seeing the field. Schmidt, a fifth-year senior quarterback from Marion, is well aware of this.

No, he hasn’t played a down in his five seasons as a backup quarterback for the Hawkeyes. And, no, he’s not dying for a “Rudy” moment. OK, he wouldn’t mind it, but it would have to be organic.

“Yes, it would be awesome, but the ultimate goal is to win games as a team,” said Schmidt, who quarterbacked Linn-Mar to a 9-2 record his senior season in 2014. “Obviously, I would love that, but it would have to be the right situation. The win is the goal for the team.”

The dream

Schmidt went into his Iowa experience with the same dreams all players have.


“Of course, I was just like anyone,” Schmidt said. “I dreamed of being the starter and all of that. I’ve learned there’s more to it than that. Building relationships with the coaches and the guys, it’s been a lesson in life that’s been super meaningful to me.

“Being able to be part of a team and trying to make a positive impact on people means a lot. Before I got into college football, I took for granted what it means to win a game and celebrate with your teammates. You learn to appreciate those moments.”

Being from Marion, Schmidt always wanted to be a Hawkeye. Beyond that, he knows what it means. He does get out in the community, specifically the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“It’s great to try to be a positive influence on people who might be in tough situations,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the game and practice, but when you meet people, visit the Children’s Hospital, it’s an eye opener. It’s fun to interact with people who love Iowa football.”

Schmidt is the old dude in the QB room. He’s got a year on senior starter Nate Stanley. In football years, he’s ancient compared to true freshman Alex Padilla.

His QB teammates see an example of perseverance.

“Going through all of the summer workouts that he has, all of the winter workouts and to never see the field?” Stanley said. “That shows he truly loves the game.

“And whenever I’m feeling like I don’t want to get up today or when I’m dragging a little bit, I think of guys like Ryan and the attitude that he brings every single day.”

Asked about his role, Schmidt simply says he wants to be a positive presence with the QBs. Stanley expanded on that. Schmidt times “from the snap to getting the ball out of the QB’s hands.”

Seems like a little thing. Timing is everything in the passing game.

“He helps us develop that clock in our heads as far as timing on routes and, yeah, we can get that ball out faster,” Stanley said. “That’s one of the things he’s always helped me out with, reinforcing in my mind that it is an internal clock.”

This depends on where you carry the brotherhood notion with football. Outside of the team environment, we see it and maybe we understand it. They live it and they believe in it.

And after five years, the list of roommates builds up. Schmidt’s list of former roomies includes Drew Cook (all five years), John Milani, Ivory Kelly-Martin, Henry Marchese and Anthony Nelson.

“Everyone in the QB room,” Schmidt said. “You just spend so much time together. You go through so much together.”

The commitment

This sounds like nuttiness, five years and no big reward in a physical sport. Schmidt takes the team concept seriously and believes he’s reaped rewards, even if they might take some time to fully appreciate.

Schmidt will play when he enters the workforce. The academic accolades in his bio include two-time academic all-Big Ten, president’s list and dean’s list. He graduated last December with a degree in finance. Since then, he enrolled in a master’s of law degree and will finish that this spring.

Schmidt spent last summer in New York working for Bank of America. Yes, it was quite an eye opener for him, he’d never spent more than a week away from home. Schmidt had a five-year vision for himself at Iowa, and that’s why he didn’t take his degree last December and seek a job in investment banking, which is the eventual goal. (Of course, Schmidt said it stung to miss summer workouts. That’s how the wiring goes.)

Where does five years of football fit into that?

“Just taking the competitive edge from football and the value of teamwork and hard work, you can really leverage that in the real world, assuming that’s what people are looking for,” Schmidt said. “Being in the workforce is like being on a team working for a common goal. I assume there’s going to be a place for that.”

Schmidt did remember what still remain as his final competitive snaps.


“I know it was a loss in the playoffs to Iowa City West,” he said. He left out a few things from that 38-34 loss. He hit 9 of 21 passes for 167 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns.

Let the record show, the 6-5, 237-pounder has game.


His final snaps in football are approaching. The No. 20 Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) are in for a white-knuckle ride in the next five games, which are all border rivals starting this weekend at Northwestern (1-5, 0-4).

He might not get that snap in Kinnick Stadium. It might be a scout team rep that maybe only defensive coordinator Phil Parker will appreciate.

Schmidt is good with this.

“I thought about that before the season just a little bit,” he said. “It’s gone by so fast. I know everyone says that, but it sneaks up on you. The weeks go so fast. You get so focused and then all of the sudden it’s Nebraska week.

“I’ve loved being a Hawkeye. I haven’t regretted this a for single minute. I’ve enjoyed the entire experience.”

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