The Mystery Man Who May Hold The Key To Iowa's BCS Title Hopes

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
The Mystery Man Who May Hold The Key To Iowa's BCS Title Hopes
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

College football fanatics like myself sometimes make decisions that defy all logic and reason.  

Pregame rituals are a great example of that. 

My ritual involves making sure I have my black tigerhawk boxers on.  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  Go ahead and laugh.

The fact of the matter is, I started wearing them after Iowa's loss to Illinois last season and they haven't lost since I started the ritual.

Are my boxers the reason the Hawkeyes are on an 11 game win streak?  Probably not, but I am not going to test that theory anytime soon out of fear of jinxing my team into a loss.

I will be the first to admit, I'm an unabashed Iowa Hawkeyes fan.  I was born a Hawkeye and I will die a Hawkeye.  It's in my blood.  

As such, there is nothing I want more than for the Hawkeyes to win their first national championship. That's why I don't want to do anything to jinx their chances.  That means the boxers are put on every Saturday, no matter what.

That also means never mentioning Iowa's NFL prospect tight end by name.

A few months ago, I made a vow to never again speak of, think about, or write out the name of oft-injured No. 81 out of an extreme fear of jinxing him into the Joe Theismann of all injuries.

I even came up with a few clever nicknames like Big T., Calcium Deficiency, and Bubble Boy, so I wouldn't have to refer to him by name.

I did this because I knew the kid might very well be the key to Iowa's Big Ten Title hopes this year, and I didn't want to test fate.  

The 6'4'', 250 pound tight end came to Iowa in 2005 out of Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, IL.  His parents were born and raised in the Island of Tonga, a chain of islands near Australia, and came over to the states before Big T. was born.

In high school, he played tight end, fullback, and linebacker, and was a three-time letter winner in football.  He was also a two-time letter winner in basketball and tennis, proving his all-around athleticism.

When it came time to pick a college, No. 81 had a hard time with his choice.  BYU was a big family favorite because of his Mormon faith and the fact that two of his brothers attended school there.  But at the end of the day, he chose the University of Iowa because of Kirk Ferentz. 

Once at Iowa, he immediately made an impact, earning a great deal of playing time during his freshman and sophomore years.  

No. 81's junior year was supposed to be his chance to shine.  Instead, it started a series of injury plagued seasons.

In 2007, Big T. dislocated his elbow and broke his hand on the same play in a game against Wisconsin, an injury that eventually forced him to take a medical red-shirt.

For the 2008 season, he dealt with foot, hamstring, and calf issues, and only saw limited action in nine games last season.

But despite all the injuries, his talent is still undeniable.  As such, a ton of NFL talk surrounded Big T. heading into the 2009 season.

Then, when he had what became a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of Iowa's 17-16 win over Northern Iowa, he was even more popular among college football writers.

Of course, the writers around the country failed to read my article and heed my advice , and continued writing about his "health" and his injuries. 

And guess what happened?

In the second game of the season this year, an Iowa State lineman decided to park himself on Big T.'s ankle, causing an injury and forcing him to miss the next three games. 

I am convinced that sports writers throughout the country are the reason for No. 81's most recent injury.

But yet again, the resilient Bubble Boy overcame the adversity of the latest injury hex.  No. 81 has been back on the field in the last two games for Iowa, and he is making his presence be known in a huge way.

In the game against Michigan, Big T. caught two touchdown passes of over 30 yards each (34, 42).  Against Wisconsin, he made a ninja-like touchdown catch in the back of the end zone that tied the game up.

In both games, his performance was clutch. 

Some feel, myself included, that he might be the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to Iowa's BCS Title hopes.

Big T. appears to be Ricky Stanzi's favorite target.  His size makes him easy to find.  His size also makes it difficult for safeties to guard him.  And his speed makes it hard for linebackers to keep up with him in man-to-man coverage. 

While his size and athleticism help Iowa put much needed points on the board, it is his understanding of football, his ability to perform under pressure, and his talent for blocking that make him vital to a team looking for ways to win football games.

Since his return to action for the Hawkeyes, I have taken up Voodoo.  I am a die-hard Hawkeye who will stop at nothing to ensure my team has the most important ingredients needed for a run at the national title. 

If a few chickens have to lose their lives during a seance in order for me to keep the jinx off of No. 81, so be it.

Load More Stories

Follow Iowa Hawkeyes Football from B/R on Facebook

Follow Iowa Hawkeyes Football from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.