Brown: From Black and Gold to Go Blue; Goodbye, Jake
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The first time I ever spoke to Jake Rudock was at Iowa's football media day in August of 2013, when he was competing with C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol for the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback position.
I forget what my first question was. But I remember the answer:
"I hate that question," Rudock said.
Upset? No. In fact, he earned my respect on the spot. Athletes today are well-schooled in the College of Cliché. Rudock was not. He spoke his mind. He was sharp. That's why I called him a cerebral quarterback every chance I got. And now he'll be wearing one of the most famous helmets in college football for his final season of eligibility.
After graduating from Iowa on May 16, Rudock will pack his bags and head to Michigan, where he'll play for new coach Jim Harbaugh. Rudock took 25 starts in Iowa's last 26 games with him to Ann Arbor after Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz decided to name Beathard the No. 1 quarterback in January.
"We had a quality quarterback the last two years," Ferentz said after Saturday's open scrimmage at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. "I'm confident we'll have one next year."
Instead of returning and trying to regain his starting spot, Rudock elected to go in a different direction. I can't say I blame him. I'm sure Ferentz had a good reason for his decision. But losing the starting job to a guy who didn't even see the field in the final two regular-season games probably told Rudock he was facing long odds.
Loyalty is a Ferentz trait. That's why the move surprised me at first. But Beathard's upside — namely his arm strength — are undeniable. Rudock was the safe bet, Beathard the gamble. Ferentz looked at his cards, blew a kiss to conservatism and went all in.
It was a decision greeted warmly by many in the fan base who have been clamoring for Beathard for months. Every hero needs a villain. Rudock became the guy in the black hat.
Does Iowa's offense have a bigger upside heading into the 2015 season with Beathard at quarterback? Absolutely. Will Iowa miss Rudock's game management skills, and his ability to get the Hawkeyes out of bad plays with a check at the line of scrimmage? Absolutely.
If Rudock was miffed at losing his job to Beathard — he's not the competitor I think he is if he wasn't — he didn't throw Ferentz or the Hawkeyes under the bus publicly.
"Coach Harbaugh is very energetic, and I noticed right off the bat how involved he is in practices," Rudock told mgoblue.com last week. "I enjoyed our conversations, and one thing is for sure: When coach Harbaugh walks into a room, he changes the thermostat."
Not that Rudock can't handle that. The heat was turned up pretty high during his two seasons on the field for the Hawkeyes.
So now he jumps from the West Division to the East Division of the Big Ten. There are some who are hoping he does well in Ann Arbor, which would reflect poorly on his former program. Just like those armchair quarterbacks who got excited when Sokol threw for 3,436 yards last season at Louisiana Tech.
Me? I hope Rudock has a great season. I wish him a fond farewell. He was a student-athlete in the truest sense of the word. Even when he didn't like some of the questions I asked.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown