Iowa's Stanzi Shines Bright in the Shadows of Hawkeye Legends

B.Senior Analyst IOctober 27, 2009

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01:  Ricky Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes drops back to pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the Outback Bowl on January 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Iowa's euphoric, history-making season continues to mystify college football fans around the country.  Every day the magic gets harder and harder for people to deny.

To add to the supernatural story taking place in Iowa City, quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been recognized as one of 15 semifinalists for this year's Davey O'Brien Award.

The Davey O'Brien Award is the oldest and most prestigious quarterback award in the country, and it's handed out every year to the nation's best college quarterback both on and off the field.

Some might look at Stanzi's statistics on the year and wonder about his selection.  His 1,715 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the year are far from the best on the list. 

The O'Brien selection committee actually analyzes several factors when narrowing down their list, focusing on a quarterback's skills, athletic ability, academics, reputation as a team player, leadership, sportsmanship and character when determining the semifinalists.

"The commitment, sportsmanship and leadership qualities exemplified by these quarterbacks truly embody the spirit of The O'Brien," according to their website

Looking over Iowa's resilient performance on the season, and looking closely at Stanzi's behavior both on and off the field, it is clear he belongs on this list. 

And his teammates agree. 

"Everybody has been scrutinizing Rick and all that bullcrap. He stepped up and he led this team," the Daily Iowan quoted linebacker Pat Angerer as saying. "He's unbelievable. He's a great leader and great person."

Stanzi has amassed a 16-3 record as a starter at Iowa, and has steered the Hawkeyes into the record books for their first 8-0 start in school history.

He might not have a Heisman Trophy like Florida's Tim Tebow.  He might not put up the numbers like Texas' Colt McCoy.  And he might not have the athletic ability of Miami's Jacory Harris.  But his leadership in the face of adversity and his reputation as a team player make him a great fit for the O'Brien award.

The unfortunate burden for Stanzi is not that Hawkeye fans judge him based on the Tebows or the McCoys of the world. 

Rather, fans look at former Iowa quarterback legends like Chuck Long, Chuck Hartlieb and Brad Banks for their comparisons, something even the Tebows of the world fall short of.

Ask any Hawkeye fan in Iowa who the greatest college quarterback of all time is, and the name Chuck Long will be shouted from every window and doorway within earshot of the question.

Long was quarterback at Iowa from 1981 to 1985.  He graduated with one of the greatest careers ever compiled by a college quarterback. 

Long's 10,461 career passing yards, 74 career touchdowns and 782 career completions are still firsts in Iowa history.  He was also the first Big Ten player and just the second player in college football history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a career.

His single-season total of 27 touchdowns in 1985 stills looms over the record books.

Long finished second to Bo Jackson for the 1985 Heisman Trophy, the closest Heisman race in college football history.  He was also the 1985 Davey O'Brien Award recipient and led the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl.

The shadow Long casts over quarterbacks at Iowa is hard to escape, and Hawkeye fans continue to compare every prospect that steps foot on the field at Kinnick Stadium to him. 

Stanzi currently sits at No. 8 on Iowa's career passing list with almost 3700 passing yards.  While he likely has more than a year left as starting quarterback, it seems clear he will fall short of Long's career mark. 

He has also yet to reach the total number of touchdowns in his career that Long had in the 1985 season alone. 

For that, he is penalized in the minds of some Hawkeye fans.  And it isn't fair to Stanzi.

After the Long era at Iowa came the Hartlieb era.

Chuck Hartlieb sits third all time in career passing with 6,934 yards.  Like Long, he holds a number of seemingly impossible to achieve Iowa football records.

Hartlieb holds the records for most passing attempts in a season (460), most passing completions in a season (288), most yards gained in a season (3,738) and most touchdowns in a game (7). 

He was the first Hawkeye to throw for 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and has the best single game record of 558 yards.

Stanzi has yet to complete as many passes in his nineteen game career as Hartlieb completed in 1988 alone.  His best single game passing total is 296 yards.

For that, he is penalized in the minds of some Hawkeye fans.  And again, it isn't fair.

Like most quarterbacks, Stanzi has his own style.  And that style wins football games.

"He wins games and everyone seems to overlook that now a days. You play to WIN and it doesn't matter how that's accomplished," reminds former Iowa quarterback Drew Tate.

Tate is right.  Stanzi is currently on pace to have a better winning percentage than both Long and Hartlieb.

Long compiled a winning percentage of .724 in his illustrious four-year career; Hartlieb had a winning percentage of .673 in his career.

Stanzi?  He is on pace for a career .833 winning percentage.

The fact is, Stanzi wins games. 

The fact is, he is riding a 12 game winning streak, the longest winning streak at Iowa since the 1920's.

The fact is, no other quarterback in the history of Iowa football has led the Hawkeyes to an 8-0 start.

Stanzi's shadow might very well be impossible for future generations to eclipse in its own right.

The winner of this year's Davey O'Brien Award will be announced on December 10. 

Even if Stanzi doesn't win, he is already apart of something very magical happening in Iowa City this season, and that's something that no award can provide. 

Stanzi will always hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Hawkeye fans around the world, even if they don't know it yet.

He isn't Drew Tate, or Chuck Long, or Brad Banks.  He is Ricky Stanzi, and the man knows how to win football games.