For years Penn St. has been fondly known as “Linebacker U”. That is a name that has stuck because linebacker is certainly the glamour position on defense, and Penn St. has produced more than their fair share of talented backers over the years.
Conversely, I’m sure few people would refer to tight end as a glamour position on offense. The tight end has become somewhat of a lost art in this day and age of the sophisticated spread offenses.
Yet, nobody takes better advantage of the tight end in the country than Iowa. In fact, Iowa’s pro style offense is one of only a few teams in the Big 10 where the tight end still plays a prominent role in both the passing and running games.
While it might not have as much cache and glamour as the term “Linebacker U”, there is no question that the University of Iowa has earned the title “Tight End U”. A connection to the blue collar position of tight end is perfectly suited to the gritty, never-say-die attitude of recent Hawkeye teams led by Kirk Ferentz.
This prestigious designation as “Tight End U” is based upon not only the recent talent the program has produced at tight end, but also the historic talent going all the way back to the early days of the Hayden Fry Era.
The current group of Hawkeyes is led at tight end by Tony Moeaki. Nobody will forget the brilliant performances Tony Moeaki treated us to this past season. Moeaki put up huge numbers on national television against Michigan and followed that up with a big-time performance at Wisconsin.
Moeaki not only played an integral role in the passing game, but also was one of the better run blocking tight ends ever to suit up at Iowa. Key blocks thrown by Moeaki helped spring Brandon Wegher to several big runs in the Orange Bowl, including the game clinching touchdown off left tackle late in the fourth quarter.
In spite of missing three games early in the year, Moeaki’s 2009 performance earned him all-Big Ten first team honors, and he was also named a semi-finalist for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end. He is projected to go in the early rounds of the NFL draft this April.
This quote from Kirk Ferentz following the Michigan game this past year pretty much says it all: “When he slips out into the open for passes he’s great at catching the football, getting on the run and getting to the end zone. He has a knack for finding the end zone. He brings a lot of energy to our team. Everybody loves the kid; he’s a great football player and a hard worker. His character is really what this team is looking for and he’s obviously one of our leaders.”
If he is able to beat the injury bug that dogged him during his Hawkeye career, the sky is the limit for Moeaki in the NFL.
Moeaki is just the latest in a long line of fantastic tight ends to come out of Tight End U. Lets have a look at some of the guys that paved the way for Tony Moeaki:
Brandon Myers (2006 – 2008)
Stepping in for an injured Tony Moeaki in 2008, Brandon Myers came out of nowhere and had an incredible 2008 campaign. Myers had 34 receptions for 441 yards and tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions. Myers’ contributions were good enough to earn first team All-Big Ten honors as voted by the coaches.
I personally will always remember several critical catches Myers hauled in from Ricky Stanzi during Iowa’s fateful last drive against Penn St. at Kinnick Stadium in November 2008 that lead to Daniel Murray’s game-winning field goal. A number of those catches happened right in front of me as I took in the game’s final moments from the west stands.
Myers was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, where he joined fellow Hawkeye Robert Gallery.
Scott Chandler (2003 – 2006)
Scott Chandler converted from wide receiver to tight end in his sophomore year. His 6’7” size and 260 pound frame made him a prototypical Iowa tight end. Chandler proved to be one of quarterback Drew Tate’s favorite targets during the years they played together.
Chandler was also lucky enough to catch passes from his brother, quarterback Nathan Chandler, during the 2003 season.
Chandler ranks 17th in career receiving yards with 1,467 yards and 117 catches. Those numbers are also good for second on Iowa’s all-time tight end list.
Chandler participated in probably the most memorable play in Iowa football history. He was lined up at right tight end on the last play of the 2005 Capital One Bowl against LSU. Drew Tate actually looked to Chandler right before spotting an open Warren Holloway for the 56-yard Iowa touchdown pass that won the game.
You can learn every detail you ever wanted to know about this play, (and many more) in my recent book titled The 50 Greatest Plays in Iowa Hawkeyes Football History , published by Triumph Books. I don’t think I’m letting any cats out of the bag by noting that this play made the Top Five.
Dallas Clark (2000-2002)
Hard to believe that Dallas Clark only played two seasons at tight end at Iowa. Clark made the team as a walk-on linebacker in 2000 but was converted to tight end during spring practice in 2001. What a move that turned out to be!
In 2002, Clark enjoyed one of the greatest years of any tight end in school history. He had 43 receptions for 742 yards and four touchdowns. He was a consensus All-America and won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end in 2002.
Clark left Iowa after his junior season and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round, where he has developed into one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets. Clark won the Super Bowl with the Colts following the 2006 season and in February 2008 signed a multiyear deal with the Colts that made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.
Marv Cook (1985-1988)
Marv Cook was a dominant force on many great Hawkeye teams of the 1980s. In fact, Cook played an integral role in one of the greatest plays in Iowa Football history at the Big Horseshoe in Columbus in November 1987.
Trailing by five with just 16 seconds left and facing a 4th-and-23 from the Ohio St. 28-yard line, quarterback Chuck Hartlieb dropped back to pass and looked deep downfield to his left to draw attention away from Cook, who was running a pattern down the right side line.
Hartlieb threw the ball at Cook’s back; Cook made a slight adjustment while the ball was in the air to turn inside toward the ball and came slightly back to meet it. Cook hauled the ball in at the nine-yard line, but still had multiple Buckeye defenders between him and the goal line.
Two Buckeyes converged on Cook as he approached the end zone. They all collided near the end zone, but Cook was just able to power across the plane of the goal line for the score as he fell to the ground.
This play ranked No. 2 in the above book.
Cook went on to star with the New England Patriots in the early 1990s where he was named to two Pro Bowls. He played a total of seven NFL seasons, finishing his career with the Bears and Rams. Cook is currently the head football coach at Iowa City Regina High School.
Quite an illustrious group to say the least.
And it appears as though the rich will just get richer, as the top tight end recruit in the nation, C.J. Fiedorowicz of Johnsburg, Illinois, decommitted to the Illinois in November and announced he would enroll at Iowa instead. He cited Iowa’s strong history at the position and current emphasis on the tight end as reasons for his change of heart. Can’t wait to see him in black and gold in the coming years!
Lets see if this moniker “Tight End U” can stick. Hey, like George Costanza said, every name sounds funny the first time you hear it (i.e., Seven or Soda). I personally think it is fits the Iowa Football program absolutely perfectly.