Drew Ott on moped accident: 'I thought my shins were shattered'

Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Iowa right end Drew Ott stops Ball State halfback Jahwan Edwards on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Barely a week after being struck by a car while riding his moped, Drew Ott's life is pretty much back to normal, at least by his standards.

Normal to Ott is anything but normal to others.

From his mullet and beard to his willingness to ride real long distances by himself on his moped, Ott stands out among his Iowa football teammates.

Senior strong safety John Lowdermilk smiles just at the mention of Ott's name.

"How would I describe Drew Ott?" Lowdermilk said Tuesday. "He might not look like it, but he's actually really smart."

Lowdermilk then went on to describe the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Ott as a wild man who beats to his own drum and who has several unique talents, including knowing how to speak Swahili.

"He's really tough," Lowdermilk said. "You can't rock the beard and the Mohawk and not be tough."

Ott's toughness has helped him become a key piece to an Iowa defense that will face a stiff road test Saturday against run-happy Pittsburgh.

The Trumbull, Neb., native leads the team with two sacks in three games. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after leading Iowa with 13 tackles during a 17-13 victory over Ball State on Sept. 6.

It was uncertain if Ott would play against Iowa State this past Saturday in the wake of his moped accident. But he avoided serious injury and had three tackles and one pass break-up during the 20-17 loss to the Cyclones.

Ott's toughness shined through when asked Tuesday if he ever doubted that he would play against Iowa State, just five days after the accident.

"Maybe when I was laying there in the street, but as soon as a couple minutes went by, then I knew I'd be ready to go." Ott said.

Police say Ott was riding a moped westbound on Benton Street when he collided with a Buick four-door vehicle that turned in front of him.

Ott, 21, was transported to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics by ambulance with what were described as "non-incapacitating" injuries.

"The car basically turned left right in front of the scooter," said Iowa City Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde.

Ott wasn't wearing a helmet. He initially thought his injuries were more severe.

"It was a little scary," he said. "I thought my shins were shattered. But they were just swollen. So it worked out pretty good."

Ott described the accident Tuesday.

"A kid was just turning on to a different street and crossed traffic, and we hit head on," Ott said.

The driver of the vehicle, a 17-year-old, was cited by police for failure to yield upon a left turn. The Press-Citizen does not identify juveniles charged unless they are charged with a felony.

Lowdermilk drove past the accident scene on his way to a morning workout unaware that Ott was the victim lying in the street.

"I looked down, and I was like I hope whoever that is is alright," Lowdermilk said. "And then I get to workouts and I find out it was him.

"I was really worried about him, because it didn't look like he was going to be OK."

Despite his accident, Ott hasn't been scared into wearing a helmet.

"Probably not," he said.

Ott already has replaced his damaged moped with another.

"Same one, just a newer version," he said.

Ott grew up in rural Nebraska riding mopeds and motorcycles and anything else he could find with a motor and two wheels. He was only 6 years old when he started riding what Ott described as a mini-bike. He also was just 14 when he earned his first motorcycle permit.

"I've always liked driving those out on the farm," said Ott, who currently owns a Honda ETX 1300 CC motorcycle, as does his father, along with a dirt bike back home.

The accident has made Ott more cautious and more aware of his surroundings.

"Just a lot more head on a swivel, I guess," he said.

Ott is so comfortable riding a moped that two years ago in the spring he drove from Iowa City to his home in Nebraska on one. The trip took 12 hours one way.

"I was content the whole time," Ott said. "I enjoyed it the whole way."

Lowdermilk has no intention of joining Ott on such a trip.

"I would never ride 12 hours on a moped to Nebraska," Lowdermilk said. "That's just Drew. There is just no other way to explain him ... goofy."