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Drew Ott bids farewell to Iowa

NCAA denies fifth year; defensive end enters the NFL draft process


Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Drew Ott (95) tires to get to Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Wes Lunt (12) but is blocked by offensive lineman Austin Schmidt (57) during the second half of a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Sunday, October 10, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Drew Ott (95) tires to get to Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Wes Lunt (12) but is blocked by offensive lineman Austin Schmidt (57) during the second half of a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Sunday, October 10, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Drew Ott’s bid for a fifth year of eligibility was denied Tuesday evening. Iowa athletics director Gary Barta got the news during a Des Moines I-Club event. He waited until Ott had at least eaten before breaking the news to head coach Kirk Ferentz and the now former Hawkeye.

“It’s unfortunate I didn’t get the ruling to go and get another year, but very thankful for the coaches and everyone here who helped with my rehab and things like that,” Ott said Wednesday. “So, I’m very thankful for Hawkeye Nation staying with me, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

The call on the NCAA’s decision to reject Iowa’s appeal for Ott to have a fifth year ended a process that began in late November. Ott suffered a dislocated elbow and torn ligaments in week 2 at Iowa State and then had his season ended in week 7 when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee against Illinois.

Ott told media prior to Iowa’s game at Nebraska on Nov. 27 that he applied for a medical hardship waiver, trying to gain a fifth year of eligibility. Ott missed more than half of his senior season with those injuries.

Still, Ott exceeded official NCAA requirements for a waiver by playing in more than 30 percent of Iowa’s 13 regular-season games (counting the Big Ten championship). Ott played in six of Iowa’s 13 games (46 percent). He did play only parts of the Iowa State, Pitt and North Texas games, but one play meant one game apparently.

Iowa appealed on Ott’s behalf. The Big Ten’s six-member academics and eligibility subcommittee agreed in late February to send Ott’s case to the NCAA. The NCAA twice denied the appeal with Tuesday night’s decision being the final word.

“I’m really disappointed for Drew,” Ferentz said. “Drew has just done such a great job, and it’s a tough situation. Beyond that, I am disappointed with the decision and also disappointed at the process, and that being said, I’ll just move on ... .

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Video: Kirk Ferentz addresses Drew Ott situation
 

“I was a little bit hopeful and mildly optimistic this ruling would go the other way. It didn’t. The good thing is, the comforting thing is, I know he’s got a bright future and he’s going to do well in whatever he chooses to do moving on.”

As far as explanations went Wednesday, Ott said the NCAA told him when he played too many games. Iowa argued that Ott played only 200 snaps last season. Against Iowa State, for instance, he played just one quarter before having to leave with the elbow injury. He played maybe a quarter against Pitt and not much more than that against North Texas.

Still, one play in one quarter, in the Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement’s collective mind, was equal to one game.

“One of our arguments was he played around 200 snaps last year which in a normal game our guys play 70 to 80 snaps defensively,” Ferentz said. “Depends how you look at it and how you cut it up. We don’t sit on those meetings. I know there are hard-and-fast rules, but there are also interpretations.”

In the end, Ferentz said Ott was too tough for his own good. Ott could’ve sat out of the Pitt and North Texas games with the elbow injury, but he said that never crossed his mind.

“I never thought about not playing. I mean, it was something I could work with,” Ott said. “I had it dislocated before so I knew how to work my way around it. Wasn’t too concerned about it.”

 

Finding out that my time has come to an end here at Iowa leaves me with a lot of people to thank. Thank you to my coaches for giving me the opportunity, believing in me, and staying with me through this whole process. Hawkeye fans, you have been amazing and thank you for the constant support. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without my friends and family. #onceahawkalwaysahawk #TheDecision

A photo posted by Drew Ott (@mullott95) on

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Ott has signed with agent Neil Cornrich and will begin visiting with NFL teams leading up to the draft on April 28, according to a source.

Ott had two meetings with NFL personnel while waiting for a final decision on his eligibility, which he first applied for in late November. The NCAA granted him a waiver to attend the combine in February. Ott also met with scouts during Iowa’s pro day in March. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned Friday night that the NFL would be holding combine rechecks this week. That will happen on Thursday and Friday.

Ott hasn’t been part of the 2016 Iowa football team. With his eligibility in question, Iowa was forced to consider him as a graduate. Ott has been able to workout with Iowa’s strength and conditioning coaches. In March, Ferentz said he expected Ott to be able to be ready to play in the fall. Ott is recovering from knee (ACL) and elbow (ligaments) surgeries. Ott echoed that on Wednesday.

“Rehab’s going great,” Ott said. “Started running here and things like that, so things are going good for me. I should be ready to go by the season.”

Of course, Ott would’ve gone a long way in shoring up the young defensive end position for the Hawkeyes. Sophomore Parker Hesse, who replaced Ott last season, is Iowa’s most experienced player there. Sophomore Matt Nelson, who saw his role grow late last season, is slated to start on the other side. During last Friday night’s open scrimmage at Valley Stadium in Des Moines, redshirt freshman Anthony Nelson and sophomore walk-on Sam Brincks were the backups. Defensive line coach Reese Morgan said earlier this month an incoming freshman could end up factoring at the position.

“It would have been great,” Ott said. “I love playing for Coach Ferentz and his staff and things like that. I’ve got a lot of friends on the team and would have been just a great time. So, I would have really enjoyed coming back for another year.”

In 19 games the last two seasons at Iowa, Ott had 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Going into spring practice, Hesse and Nelson had combined for 7.0 tackles for loss and sacks as redshirt freshmen last season.

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said he looked to Ott as a team leader despite his injuries.

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“Drew was a really tough guy and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said on a Big Ten teleconference Wednesday. “One of the best leaders we had on our team last year. It stinks hearing that news, but I know Drew is going to be successful in whatever he does and whatever he decides to do because he works hard at everything he does and he was a big part of this team’s success last year even when he did get hurt and wasn’t playing. He was a leader on the sidelines.

“I think what I learned most from him was how to lead and how to be a better leader. When I saw him playing through those injuries and giving it his all and not wanting to be out of the game and wanting to be in there, it gave me some motivation to do the same.”

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

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