In light of the disappointments and criticisms surrounding the Iowa Hawkeye football team as of late, perhaps it’s time to remind the world that all is not dark in the land of black and gold. Of the many bright spots that can be highlighted, the upcoming NFL playoff season might be a good time to focus on a recent great Hawkeye success story.
Former Iowa middle linebacker and current Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Pat Angerer will start in his first NFL playoff game tomorrow against another ex-Hawkeye, running back Shonn Greene of the New York Jets.
Would Angerer have imagined a year ago, just after celebrating an Orange Bowl victory, he’d be starting in the NFL playoffs? Perhaps, but many others probably didn’t. At 6’0” and 235 lbs, Angerer was initially labeled as too small to be effective on an NFL defense, despite being picked 63rd overall in the 2010 draft.
As a new Colt, Angerer has played in 16 games and amassed 88 tackles (58 solo), one sack and one forced fumble. 16 tackles came in special teams play. 11 tackles were earned in his first start in Week 6 against the Washington Redskins.
Yet all of his early NFL success might never have happened. Plagued by injuries in the 2007 season, including mononucleosis and hamstring, groin and shoulder injuries, Pat nearly gave up playing football. Not wanting to disappoint his coach or let down his team, he decided to fight through it.
Working through his injuries, Angerer came back with a bang in the 2008 season, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors and holding second place in the Big Ten in interceptions.
In 2009, he earned First Team All-American honors and was fourth in the nation in tackles per game at 11.2. It was enough for the Indianapolis Colts to let him attempt to translate his talents to the pro stage. They don’t appear to regret that decision.
Reading blogs about Pat Angerer on the Colts websites, including quotes he’s made in interviews, one thing stands out: his incredible, relentless work ethic. Pat doesn’t give up. He shows up big every day. He welcomes the opportunity to learn something new and improve. He doesn’t let people tell him what he can’t do. He puts his nose to the grindstone and hits it full force, 100 percent of the time.
If every player practiced such football religion, a team would be unstoppable.
Many factors contribute to Pat Angerer’s success story. The youngest of five in a middle-class family with three older brothers might have toughened him up. His dedication to football and love of the game no doubt helps.
During Iowa away games, when other players might go out to distract themselves and relax, Pat admitted he would stay in his room and watch TV, avoiding distraction.
Pat is also a testimony to his coaches at Iowa, who have the uncanny ability to turn local, non-ranked high school talent into competitive Big Ten players who, as Jim Tressel puts it, leave with significantly better resumes than they came with.
How? By holding a tough line. You don’t get to play if you don’t put in the work. And if you break the rules, you will be punished.
It’s been said by many that the loss of Pat Angerer (as well as AJ Edds and Amari Spivey) was greatly underestimated when gauging the Hawkeyes' potential for success in 2010. “Next man in” often works at Iowa, but replacing exceptional talent from the 2009 class ultimately could not be done. Not only did the Hawkeyes lose their football skill, but also their work ethic and role modeling. The younger replacement players can grow into similar success stories, but it doesn’t usually happen overnight.
What fans, pundits and critics need to remember is that a few bad apples can’t and won’t spoil the Ferentz bunch for long. As many tragedies as have played out with DJK, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher, there are as many success stories to be played out as time marches on. Let’s not dishonor the future (or the coaches) by forgetting the great men that the Iowa Hawkeye football team has built over the years, including the guys playing their first NFL playoff game this weekend.