Brown: Canzeri's unshakable spirit worth 1,000 yards

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Jordan Canzeri says he has his burst back.

"Definitely," Iowa's unsinkable senior running back said.

Canzeri's attitude has never wavered in the face of injuries that would have burst the bubble of many a ball carrier.

"This is my time," he said.

One more chance to leave a lasting impact on the field. And he's ready.

"I'm nothing but excited," Canzeri said. "I don't really have doubts, fears, worries, anything like that. I'm really excited for the first game."

That moment comes Sept. 5, against Illinois State in Kinnick Stadium.

"I'm confident, and I'm ready to go," said the 5-foot-9, 192-pounder from Troy, N.Y. "And I'm ready to do whatever I need to do to be able to help my team."

The 2014 season was pretty much a wash. Canzeri had ankle and heel injuries that took away his acceleration, and limited him to 494 yards on 102 carries.

"I think he really could have helped us, but he was just not right," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Ferentz also wondered, in retrospect, if he should have given sophomore running back LeShun Daniels more of a chance.

"We probably didn't give him enough rope last year," Ferentz said.

Daniels had ankle surgery after getting injured in practice seven games into the season. He finished with a modest 15 carries for 49 yards.

On the latest depth chart heading into the start of fall camp August 9, Daniels is listed as the No. 1 running back, and Canzeri is No. 2.

"We feel really good about both those guys," Ferentz said.

The success of Canzeri and Daniels rests, to some degree, on a new-look offensive line that is yet to be tested in live game action. It also rests on their health. But if it all works out, the Hawkeyes could have their most productive power and speed tandem since Adam Robinson and Marcus Coker combined for 1,563 yards in 2010.

And why not dream big? Maybe they'll boast a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since Coker went for 1,384 in 2011.

That was also the season Canzeri made his college debut. In the final game, a 31-14 loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl, Canzeri rushed for 58 yards and added 28 receiving yards, including a 9-yard touchdown catch.

He was a bright spot in the loss and went into spring ball with a world of momentum. And then he tore his ACL, which put him on the sidelines the entire 2012 season. He returned in 2013, when his 481 rushing yards trailed only Mark Weisman's 975. But 2014 is a painful memory.

Canzeri's positive spirit, with an assist from his faith, have gotten him to his senior season.

"Faith has played a huge role in my confidence and maturity," said Canzeri, who draws strength from his favorite Bible verse, Psalms 37:5.

His faith, he said, gives him a peace and focus to get back better and faster from injury.

"To see a guy like Jordan, who's had such a great attitude, stay positive, put hardship behind him and focus on getting better, that's what it's all about," Ferentz said. "And he's done a great job of that."

Canzeri approaches his final season without fear or trepidation. He paints a picture of opportunity, not woe-is-me.

"I do feel my body is ready, and prepared for the season," Canzeri said. "But nothing's going to keep me down. If I get hit with something again, I'm going to get back fast and get back strong. I'm prepared, and ready to go."

That attitude alone is worth 1,000 yards.

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