Iowa's Beathard: I have to be smarter about avoiding hits

Mark Emmert

If you see Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard darting into the open field before executing a feet-first slide to avoid contact this season, you’ll know that he has made a huge adjustment.

The senior has drawn good-natured ridicule from his offensive coordinator for his inability to slide and acknowledged in a recent interview that it’s something he needs to work on. But Beathard said his preference for sliding head-first goes back to a childhood incident that left him with a broken hip.

“I was playing pickle at the beach one year with my brothers. I slid and popped my hip, and ever since then I was always scared to slide, so I always go head-first,” said Beathard, who will be one of three players representing the Hawkeyes in Chicago on Tuesday at the Big Ten Conference media days. “It’s just weird to slide to me, so I’ll just dive head-first and try to get as many yards as I could.”

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard leaps for the score in the first half against Indiana on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2015 in Bloomington, Ind.

Beathard was a four-year letter-winner in baseball back home in Tennessee, but said even in that sport, he didn’t slide feet-first as most players do. The skill is important in football, too, because Beathard has proven to be an elusive runner when healthy. He ran for 77 yards in a Week 2 victory at Iowa State last year, but injured his groin shortly thereafter and finished the season with 237 yards on the ground, plus six touchdowns.

The side of C.J. Beathard that you didn't know about

Beathard said he is hoping to do more running this year, but admitted that he needs to be more cautious at times.

“He’s got to learn to slide better. He is the worst slider in the history of quarterbacks,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said this summer. “I’m thinking about some day during fall camp going out to the baseball field and trying to teach him how to slide feet-first.”

Beathard said he’s heard that message before, but it’s not always easy to break out of past habits in the heat of the moment.

“It’s hard to think about, especially in the middle of a play like that, but I think you’ve got to be more conscious of it, aware of it, especially when there’s plays that you don’t necessarily have to be a hero on,” he said. “Get the first down, get down, you’re not going to run 80 yards for a touchdown. Be a smarter runner, not take the big hits. I’m not LeShun Daniels; I’m not going to be running people over, juking them out like Akrum (Wadley). Just be smart, get down when I need to get down. …

“But I’m still going to be aggressive when I run. I’ve just got to be a little bit smarter.”