Brown: Save the tears, at Iowa it's next man in
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The news was expected, and not a surprise. Drew Ott’s Iowa football career is over.
Tests Monday night confirmed the obvious. The Hawkeyes’ star senior defensive end tore the ACL in his right knee Saturday against Illinois at Kinnick Stadium, a dark cloud over an otherwise sunny 6-0 start for this team.
“So he’s going to be done here,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Dealing with injures are the worst part about coaching and football, Ferentz will tell you. A player works for months to play on 12 Saturdays. That does not include a guarantee.
“Any time that’s taken away, that’s just a tough thing,” Ferentz said.
Ott is one of five opening-day starters who likely won’t play when Iowa visits Northwestern in a Top-25 duel Saturday in Evanston, Ill.
Running back LeShun Daniels, wide receiver Tevaun Smith, left offensive tackle Boone Myers and right offensive tackle Ike Boettger are the others. Quarterback C.J. Beathard was hardly a picture of health when he limped into the football facility to meet with reporters Tuesday, either. Jake Duzey, expected to be the starting tight end, still isn’t back from April knee surgery. Depth at offensive line is now paper-thin.
“To me you always have to expect turbulence,” Ferentz said. “You have to expect adversity. That’s part of this game.”
Injuries are an unfortunate part of football. Every team has them. Sometimes, more than others. Iowa’s 2002 team skated through an Orange Bowl season nearly unscathed. That wasn’t the case in 2004, when nearly every running back got cut down. And 2009 was a big injury year, too, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi against Northwestern. Iowa still found a way to finish 10-2 in 2004, and 11-2 in 2009.
Every coach approaches injuries differently. Ferentz’s predecessor at Iowa, Hayden Fry, never held back talking about how battered and bruised his team was. Sometimes, you wondered if the Hawkeyes would have enough healthy bodies to play a game after Fry’s weekly visit with the media. Fry, a master psychologist, had his reasons for doing that, I’m sure.
Ferentz takes a different approach, one I find refreshing in a win-or-else world. He doesn’t use injuries as an excuse. He doesn’t whine about them. Privately, I’m sure Ferentz frets over who he doesn’t have as much as the next coach. But publicly, it’s a different matter.
“It’s counterproductive to dwell on those things,” Ferentz said.
That’s why “Next Man In” has been the calling card of Iowa football under Ferentz. Someone goes down, in goes the best available healthy body.
In a perfect world, Ferentz said he would never have to discuss discipline issues or injuries in public. Discipline issues are brought on by yourself. A bad decision, an immature decision.
“But injuries, they are usually nobody’s fault,” Ferentz said. “It’s just the way it is. It's part of football, part of any sport for that matter.”
Today’s world revolves around second chances and political correctness. But nothing’s fair and just when it comes to injuries. Especially those that bring a premature end to a career.
“It doesn’t do any good to cry about what you don’t have and what could have been and all that stuff,” Ferentz said. “It’s really kind of counterproductive. So there’s really no sense talking about it.”
Ott will join his team at Ryan Field on Saturday. He’ll be one of four captains. Instead of trying to sack the quarterback, he’ll be engaged and encouraging to his teammates.
“That’s just the way he’s wired and built,” Ferentz said. “If you can’t do something well in one area, then you find another way to help out.”
That’s how this team has been built. Next man in.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.