Iowa tight end Noah Fant moves past his brother's criticism of Hawkeye coaches
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It had been one eventful month since Iowa tight end Noah Fant last spoke to reporters.
In the meantime, the Hawkeye junior has had to sit down with his head coach and offensive coordinator to discuss an inflammatory tweet sent out by his brother. He has suffered the first concussion of his career, only to return in time to rack up 102 receiving yards and a touchdown the very next game.
On Tuesday, Fant addressed both situations in a seven-minute interview at Iowa’s football complex, where the No. 18 Hawkeyes are getting ready for a big game Saturday at No. 16 Penn State (2:30 p.m., ESPN).
“That’s his right, as my brother. It was one of those things where he tweeted it and it happened,” Fant said of an Oct. 6 social media post by Chris Fant in which he questioned the amount of playing time Iowa coaches were allotting to his younger brother.
“That’s my older brother. I’m not going to tell him, ‘Hey, take that down.’ That’s the guy I’ve been looking up to my whole life. I don’t think he’s hurting me. I don’t think my family’s hurting me. They only want what’s best for me.”
► Ferentz on Chris Fant's tweet:'I don't really have much to say about it. We're trying to do things that we think are best for the team.'
Fant leads Iowa (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) with 26 catches and six touchdowns. Fellow tight end T.J. Hockenson has been getting more snaps each game and paces the Hawkeyes with 424 receiving yards on his 25 receptions. It’s a clear position of strength for Iowa, a double-barreled mismatch for opposing defenses.
But there had been grumblings among the fan base about the fact that Fant wasn’t always on the field, even on third-down plays. Nate Wieting was sometimes brought in to play tight end alongside Hockenson because of his blocking skills.
That came to a head after Iowa’s Oct. 6 victory at Minnesota, when Chris Fant took to Twitter to say: “These coaches must think the #1 Guy in the nation is the 2nd or 3rd best on (their) team! Because they both get more reps than he does. It’s hard to believe a player who is arguably the best at his position only plays sometimes. Hard to watch that mess over and over!”
The tweet was widely shared among Hawkeye followers. It came to the attention of coach Kirk Ferentz. Noah Fant knew he would be asked about it. He was summoned to talk to both Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz in subsequent days.
“I had to figure that those meetings were going to happen, and I was going to get called in,” Fant said. “But to me, I was already moved past it and I’m just worried about being with my teammates and playing with my team and hopefully getting on the field as much as I can.”
Fant said he also spoke to his brother about the tweet. But he said he doesn’t feel like he was caught in the middle. Nor is he concerned that the issue of his playing time will be a distraction to a Hawkeye team that has won three games in a row.
“I kind of removed myself from the whole thing,” Fant said. “My job is to go in when I’m told to go in and catch the ball and score touchdowns and all that stuff. ... So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
“From the coaches’ perspective, they don’t really care about how my family feels. I’ll always love my family. They’re never there to hurt me or anything like that. They’re entitled to their opinion, though.”
Chris Fant was Noah’s football coach at Omaha South High School. His Twitter feed has been much less provocative in recent weeks. Ferentz even made a joke about the issue in his news conference after Iowa defeated Indiana on Oct. 13.
That was the game that saw Noah Fant return from his concussion to grab four passes, including a 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He wasn’t cleared to play until the day before.
“A little bit of nausea. Headaches. Light was really bad,” Fant said of the week leading up to that game.
“For a couple of days, there, I was just sleeping the whole day and kind of trying to let my brain heal.”
Fant said all of his symptoms have subsided now.
“There was a couple faint headaches in between. That’s as expected with hitting your head like that,” he said.
As for his relationship with Hockenson, Fant shot down any concerns that there’s a competition between the two. Hockenson said last week that he was looking out for Fant the entire time he was recuperating from his concussion. “I love that dude,” he said.
Fant echoed that.
“He’s a great guy,” he said of Hockenson. “T.J. does things that he does and I do things that I do and we both open each other up at different points in time. So I think that it’s definitely a tandem thing. One’s not as good without the other and that goes for both cases.
“I’m happy for all his successes. He’s been happy for all my successes. And we go from there.”
Where they’re going is into the record books as one of the most prolific tight end duos in college football history. Neither tweet nor concussion has been able to derail that.