Senior center Tommy Gaul talks about his first extensive playing time as a Hawkeye
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Tommy Gaul could've bailed.
The senior center could've quit the Iowa football team and transferred to another school when it became apparent that playing time would be hard to come by.
Giving up a chance to be an Iowa Hawkeye never entered Gaul's mind. His loyalty and his patience were rewarded on Saturday against Indiana when Gaul replaced an injured Jordan Walsh on the opening series of the game and then helped pave the way to a 45-29 victory at Kinnick Stadium.
"I always wanted to be a Hawk," said Gaul, who graduated from West Des Moines Dowling Catholic in 2010 before joining the Iowa program as a walk-on. "You put in the work and next man in when someone goes down.
"To work hard for coaches like this, it's not hard to deal with. It's a great family atmosphere, and going hard is what's expected."
Walsh, who was making his 20th career start on Saturday, suffered an ankle injury on the second play of the game and didn't return. His backup at right guard, redshirt freshman Boone Myers, also missed Saturday's game because of an injury.
Gaul then became the next option, and the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder didn't disappoint.
Fantastic was the word junior Austin Blythe used to describe Gaul's performance. Blythe started the game at center and then moved to right guard after Walsh was injured.
"He's always ready to go," Blythe said of Gaul. "If I have a question I usually ask him because he knows what he's doing. And it was smooth sailing for him."
Gaul was nervous upon the entering Saturday's game. But he also was prepared.
"I'm a fifth-year senior. It helped a lot with some of the (identifications)," Gaul said. "It's not really a new thing to me. Being out there was kind of new in a competitive environment. But it definitely helped (being a senior)."
Gaul was part of an Iowa offensive line that helped clear the way for a season-high 207 rushing yards on Saturday.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said it was more than just Gaul's experience that came through on Saturday.
"It helps; there is a lot to be said for experience, especially with linemen," Ferentz said. "But experience is only good if you make it a positive, and he's done that. He works hard every day and he shows up."
Kirk Ferentz talks about Tommy Gaul's experience helping on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014.
Gaul is believed to be the first Dowling graduate to play on the offensive line for Iowa since Ross Verba in 1996.
"I think you're probably right on that," Gaul said. "I'm proud to be from Dowling, obviously."
Ferentz and Gaul both used the bye week last Saturday as a chance to watch Gaul's high school alma mater play on Friday. Dowling is led by all-state senior quarterback and Iowa commit Ryan Boyle.
Ferentz saw first-hand just how popular Gaul still is with Dowling fans.
"I was standing at a high school game with Tommy," Ferentz said. "He could run for office. Everybody loves him there. He's a tremendous young guy."
As for Walsh's status, Ferentz said he didn't think the injury was "anything too bad," but that he would know more at a later time.
Ferentz also was optimistic that Myers and freshman receiver Derrick Willies, who also missed Saturday's game with an injury, will return for next Saturday's game at Maryland.