Iowa's Drew Ott applies for medical hardship, eyes return in 2016

Chad Leistikow
Iowa right end Drew Ott grabs his right knee after tearing his ACL against Illinois on Oct. 10.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa defensive end Drew Ott, out for the season after knee and elbow surgeries, said Tuesday he has submitted paperwork for a medical hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to play for the Hawkeyes in 2016.

The percentages are not on Ott’s side, but coach Kirk Ferentz hopes the circumstances are.

“Absolutely, we’d be crazy not to try it. I think there’s a fair case to be heard,” Ferentz said Tuesday in advance of Iowa’s regular-season finale Friday at Nebraska. “I don’t know how the NCAA rules on things; I don’t pretend to be an expert in that regard. But I think if you listen to the whole case, it’s worth at least presenting. We’ll see where it takes us.”

After medical reasoning, the two key hardship eligibility rules in NCAA Division I are that the athlete doesn’t play after the midpoint of the season and has played 30 percent or less of a team’s schedule.

Ott is good on the first one — he suffered a torn ACL in the third quarter of Iowa’s sixth game out of at least 14, against Illinois. He wouldn’t meet the second requirement (having played in more than 40 percent of Iowa’s games).

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Paperwork goes to the Big Ten Conference, which delivers a ruling based on NCAA rules. Though Ferentz said he wouldn’t detail the case for Ott until the offseason, Iowa could lobby that Ott was a walking medical hardship since Game 2 — considering he dislocated his elbow in the first quarter Sept. 12 at Iowa State. Ott was limited the next two weeks (but did play), looked good Oct. 3 in playing a full game at Wisconsin, then was lost for the season in the third quarter of the Illinois game on Oct. 10.

Ott has not used a redshirt year, either, having played on a limited basis as a true freshman in 2012. That might not mean much to NCAA hardship rules, but it could be argued that a fifth year would be in the best interest of Ott to finish his education. As it stands, Ott — one of the Big Ten’s best pass rushers when healthy — will likely miss the NFL Combine while recovering from his injuries.

“There’s a lot of details in there that I think, to me, a rational person would sit down and listen to it and say, ‘This guy’s got a case,’ ” Ferentz said.

Ott’s first choice is to return for a fifth year and not turn pro.

“Whatever happens, I’ll just take it as it goes,” he said. “I don’t think it’d be too bad for me if I came back.”

The Trumbull, Neb., native took part in senior day ceremonies Saturday before No. 3 Iowa played Purdue. He walked slowly to midfield to meet his parents, Dan and Sheree. Ever the jokester (remember, he’s the guy who eats whole raw eggs, shell and all, and wears a "No. 1 Dad" shirt around campus despite not being a father), he wasn’t smiling on that walk.

“It was a little sad walking out, not getting to play,” Ott said. “I was a little down.”

The worst part, he said, was trying to get around on crutches. He’ll get his leg brace off in about two weeks, the left elbow brace off in five weeks after Tommy John surgery.

“No more left-handed pitching,” he cracked.

Ott remains one of four game captains and calls the coin toss in road games. He still goes to all practices and meetings and has been a key leader for the 11-0 Hawkeyes. He still ranks second on the team in tackles for loss (7.5) despite being healthy for only about 11 quarters of 2015.

“It’s been OK. Got all my surgeries done,” Ott said. “It’s nice watching the team do well.”