Brown: Josey Jewell hopes to tackle more cool moments

Rick Brown
Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell (43) has made the most of his last-second scholarship offer.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – It was a moment Josey Jewell will never forget. Two years and two months after the fact, he still calls it "the coolest moment of my life."

It came on Feb. 3, 2013, three days before college football's National Signing Day. The day that Iowa offered the Decorah High School star a last-second scholarship.

When Iowa assistant Reese Morgan stopped in Decorah to walk Jewell through the offer, he sensed that Jewell wasn't hearing what he had to say.

"I said, 'I want you to understand right now, we're recruiting you as a scholarship athlete. You understand that?' " Morgan said. "I think he thought, 'You're just trying to get me to walk on.' "

No false promise, only a full ride to a Big Ten school. The school that former Decorah stars like Lon and Jason Olejniczak, Bill Broghammer and Brett Van Sloten played for. The school Jewell dreamed of playing for.

"We're just glad he's here because he possesses that competitive spirit and drive that you want in players, and thank goodness he's on our football team right now because he's going to be a good player," Morgan said.

Jewell, who was headed for Northern Iowa until Iowa made its late offer, enrolled in the fall of 2013 as a 190-pounder who had rushed for 1,314 yards as a senior running back and made 100 tackles as a linebacker. Two seasons and 45 pounds later, Jewell is listed as Iowa's starting middle linebacker.

First, about that weight. It messes up a guy's wardrobe, for sure.

"I've gone through three different sets of clothes," Jewell said. "It's crazy."

In the Big Ten, or any other big-time conference for that matter, 190-pound linebackers don't exist.

"You feel a lot better when you weigh more," Jewell said from a linebacker's perspective. "You can attack linemen better. More weight to throw around."

During the 2013 season, when Jewell was redshirting, Iowa had three top-notch senior linebackers in Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris. They combined for 36.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks that year. Iowa linebackers were inexperienced and not as effective in 2014. They accounted for 15.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks.

Jewell broke a hand before the 2014 season opener against Northern Iowa and missed the first two games. The last time we saw him, he was making 14 tackles against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Or, if you go by the statistics kept by Iowa linebackers coach Jim Reid after watching tape of that game, 18 tackles.

"He really, really played well against a run-oriented offense," Reid said.

With the exception of Reggie Spearman, who transferred to Illinois State, the entire linebacking group returns in 2015. Jewell has been moved from outside linebacker to the middle this season, and is a projected starter. All three linebacking spots will be more fluid, with guys playing both outside and inside to take advantage of matchups.

"It's consistency and understanding our defense," Jewell said. "You can always get better. I still don't know what every guy is doing on the whole defense, which I should know and need to know by this fall. I've just got to keep watching film. Hopefully, I'll get there."

If he does, he could experience some more cool moments this fall.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.