Saturday I will be trekking to Iowa City for the last home football game of the 2010 season at Historic Kinnick Stadium. My heart is heavy knowing it will be the last time I will see Ricky Stanzi, Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Julian Vandervelde, Allen Reisner, Broderick Binns, Christian Ballard, Josh Koeppel, Brett Morse, Jeremiha Hunter, Ryan Donahue…(to name a few)…. play in Kinnick Stadium. Hopefully I may get to see a few of them play in the NFL in years to come.
Last year saw a great group of seniors depart and this year will be no exception. Led by a quietly charismatic leader in Ricky Stanzi, this group has taken part in numerous rollercoaster ride-like games and seasons since 2008, providing moments forever etched in our memories.
The win in the bitter cold against Penn State in 2008. Ricky’s amazing drive and last 2-seconds-TD pass to Marvin McNutt against Michigan State in 2009. The stellar demolition of No. 4 Michigan State this year. The Outback Bowl and Orange Bowl victories.
Much can and has been said of Ricky Stanzi, the love-it-or-leave-it “IT” guy and True American who branded “Stanziball,” but no one can deny the amazing growth he’s shown since winning the prized starting quarterback spot from Jake Christensen in 2008. He worked harder than anyone this past off-season to improve his efficiency and cut interceptions, dramatically reducing turnovers and getting as high as second most efficient passer in the country this season.
This from a kid who couldn’t get a scholarship offer until Thanksgiving and didn’t think he’d get a shot to start a game when he first graced the Iowa campus. Perhaps his work ethic will propel him to continued success in the NFL someday. I sure would love to see that happen.
DJK has broken receiving records, and media hearts, despite being in and out of the dog house. Many can’t wait for his censorship period to expire. He has a great personality for fans and reporters alike to adore.
Potential first-round draft pick Adrian Clayborn was kind enough to stay one more year to help the Hawkeyes despite being double-teamed most of the year. The fact that teams would game plan against him as a player is still a testimony to his talent, and we will definitely see him in the NFL next year.
My heart is heavy but my will is strong. I drank the kool-aid with other Iowa fans this season, hoping for more than last year’s success. Hoping for more for Coach Ferentz, the coach who’s done more with less and continues to crank out successful NFL players. Hoping for more for these seniors who fought many hard battles and took many hard beatings since their first shot at regulation playing time.
And yet there will be another bowl game this year, and this season can be measured as successful in the units Iowa fans were used to measuring a season by before 2009’s magical ride. Fairly or unfairly, we put the weight of the Big Ten (even more) on their shoulders, and with a more competitive Big Ten than seen in decades, the weight was just too much.
Many key players are returning on both offense and defense next year, providing hope for a decent season again next year. Like many of the seasons under Coach Ferentz, who has brought teams to bowl games 10 out of 12 years (counting this season). Yet my heart is heavy, because it’s this group of seniors that brought great character and humility back to the Iowa Hawkeyes, personifying more than many teams of the past the great ethics and character of their coach.
Surely Stanzi must be one of the most beloved and memorable quarterbacks of Ferentz' coaching career. Kirk Ferentz may not say much about these individuals until the season is over and they are gone, but I truly believe they hold a special place in his heart.
Whatever the outcome of the game on Saturday, I believe this team has much to be proud of. I’m ready to remember them for the great effort they put into entertaining all of us spectators. Thank you for the wonderful memories.. it’s been a wild and wonderful ride.