Hawkeyes QB Spencer Petras to return to Iowa football roster with an eye on coaching

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

NASHVILLE − Spencer Petras plans to return to the Iowa football roster in the spring, but the three-year starting quarterback has no intention to play for the Hawkeyes again.

Speaking to a handful of reporters Wednesday night ahead of the Music City Bowl, Petras described the extent of the right shoulder injury he suffered in Iowa’s season finale, the long rehab ahead, and his desire to someday become a college football coach.

And while his right arm remains in a sling following surgery, Petras has been helping Iowa freshman quarterbacks Joe Labas (the starter) and Carson May prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Kentucky at Nissan Stadium.

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“Any question (Labas) has, I answer. The key for me is to kind of shut up,” Petras said at the Wild Horse Saloon after helping Iowa win a singing competition against Kentucky players in the heart of Nashville’s music scene. “I would love to tell him about every single play. But we have coaches on staff, and I never want to over-step in that way and overload a guy like Joe, a young guy.

“Especially a guy like Carson, I found myself calling plays for him in the huddle. It’s hard to really step back.”

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras is introduced on senior day at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 25 in Iowa City.

Petras remains upbeat despite what are frustrating circumstances surrounding the end of his Iowa playing career. On Iowa’s senior day, Nov. 25 against Nebraska, Petras made his 31st career start with the Hawkeyes. A win, and they would have clinched the Big Ten West Division for a second straight year and reached the league championship game against Michigan. But Petras was sacked in the first quarter against the Cornhuskers and on Wednesday revealed that he tore his labrum and rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder on that play.

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That would become the (presumed) final play of Petras’ Iowa career. The Hawkeyes went 7-5 in the regular season with three frustrating losses (Iowa State, Illinois, Nebraska) plus two more double-digit losses to Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State.

“Tough way to end a tough year,” Petras said. “A challenging year for me personally. But it’s kind of like anything, it’s the cards you’re dealt. The world doesn’t care. It sucks, but I’m going to try to make the best of a tough situation.”

Just like rotator-cuff surgery is bad for a baseball pitcher, it’s a major deal for a football quarterback. Petras will be sidelined at least six months and possibly 10-11 months. It’s also possible that he never again will be able to throw a football with the kind of zip that he did while at Iowa.

Petras plans to stay at Iowa to rehab his shoulder while assisting the presumed 2023 starting quarterback, Michigan transfer Cade McNamara.

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Because of the severity of the injury, it’s unrealistic that Petras would be able to play next fall – which would be his sixth-year senior season of college, an option he has due to a free year of eligibility afforded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Wide receiver Nico Ragaini has already said he’ll use his COVID year to return next season, and defenders Joe Evans, Noah Shannon and Seth Benson remain publicly undecided about a sixth year at Iowa.

Petras’ most likely plan is to sit out 2023, get his right shoulder healthy and try to make an impression on Iowa’s pro day ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, he could be a catalyst on the sideline for Iowa’s quarterbacks while also gaining experience for a potential coaching career. That's a role Petras will play Saturday against Kentucky, wearing a headset while helping Labas navigate the game.

“I’m kind of working through taking the next step of my career after football, but also ensuring that I don’t look back with any regrets in terms of finishing my playing career.,” Petras said. “I’m not exactly sure what that’ll look like quite yet. I know I’ll be at Iowa in the spring rehabbing and helping Cade, help whoever teach what I know about our system and things like that.”

Petras reflected on his Iowa career (20-11 as a starter) and his senior-day cheers. While Petras’ performance was often criticized by Iowa fans, the University of Iowa is a place he’s loved dearly.

The senior-day moment, he said, “makes you feel good. Because at times it feels like everyone hates you, but you’ve got to remember that it’s not everyone. There are a lot of fans that made me feel really nice.”