Getting to know Matt VandeBerg & his fiance Laura Bulanda

Senior Iowa receiver Matt VandeBerg has been missed dearly this season since his season ending foot injury back in September, but the Hawks were able to salvage a solid 8-4 season after a few early hiccups to earn a trip to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Hopefully this game doesn’t end up in the hands of the referees like the last time Iowa played Florida in the Outback Bowl, way back in 2006 when Chad Greenway was wrongfully called offsides as Iowa fell to the Gators.

Anyways, VandeBerg had arguably the best game of his career back in September against Iowa State and he proposed to his girlfriend Laura Bulanda after the game.

Of course she said yes, and now Bulanda is working with HawkeyeSports.com, so the couple has some serious Iowa ties. We recently caught up with the two, checkout our interview below.

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Getting to know Hawkeye legend Matt Kroul

ANF & the NFL recently got the chance to catch up with former All-Big Ten defensive lineman Matt Kroul. Kroul was a stalwart for the Hawks while he played at Iowa from 2005-2008, as he started 50 consecutive games for Kirk Ferentz. Kroul’s success led him to the NFL, where he spent a few years with the New York Jets; listen to our two-part interview with the Mount Vernon native below.

Kroul is back in the Iowa area now, residing in Solon and running his family farm near Mount Vernon. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Matt, it was great getting to know you!

 

Catching up with the speedster, Damond Powell

ANF and the NFL recently got the chance to catch up with one of the fastest guys to ever put on the black and gold, Damond Powell.

The speedy wideout had a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 before an off the field injury took him out of football for some time. He is looking to return to football this winter however, as he recently signed a contract with the Cedar Rapids Titans of the Indoor Football League. Interestingly enough, former Iowa and NFL receiver Marvin McNutt is the new coach for the CR Titans, which has Powell very excited about his opportunity to play ball again.

Listen to our two part interview with Powell below, and keep an eye out for him and the CR Titans in 2017.

Iowa quarterbacks and their lackluster NFL careers (pt. 3)

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all we can thank about here at ANF and the NFL is Hawkeye football… Throwback Hawkeye football in particular, which brings us back to the topic of Iowa quarterbacks and their not-so-hot NFL careers.

It appears to be a theme for ex-Iowa quarterbacks, no matter how outstanding their collegiate careers were. Call it the Kurse of Kirk Ferentz. But one QB in particular was destined for greatness at the highest level; he could do it all: run, throw it far, throw it accurate, make good decisions… This guy’s name was Brad Banks, another Heisman Trophy runner-up who took Iowa to a defamed BCS Orange Bowl game back in the 2002-03 season, where the Hawks sadly got dismantled by the guy who beat Banks for the Heisman. Ironically enough, Banks’ NFL career didn’t work out, but the former USC Trojan who won the Heisman that year, Carson Palmer, is still taking snaps on Sunday’s.

Banks went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, whereas Palmer went first overall. Banks would later sign to the Washington Redskins, but was released not long after signing. Banks never even threw a pass in the NFL — making his NFL career the utmost of lackluster. He eventually made his way to the Canadian Football League (CFL), where Iowa quarterbacks have actually been known to prosper from time to time. Banks spent five years in the CFL before he returned to the gridiron in Iowa, where he played in the Arena Football League for the Iowa Barnstormers. To this day, Banks still holds the Barnstormers record for touchdowns in a game, meanwhile the fans of the team hold the record for most f-bombs chanted during a game.

While Banks’ professional career didn’t pan out quite how he wanted, he did come and speak at ANF & the NFL’s founder’s high school, senior year homecoming football game, which according to Mr. Luse was “pretty damn sweet”.

Be sure to look for part 4 of this Iowa QB series in the coming weeks as ANF and the NFL will be going over the fiery Texan Drew Tate and the All-American man Ricky “Mox” Stanzi. Happy Thanksgiving to all, On Iowa.

C.J. Fiedorowicz is more than a run blocker

C.J. Fiedorowicz, like most prominent skill guys under Kirk Ferentz, was under-utilized at Iowa. While he had 45 catches in his junior season, the 6’7″ tight end had just 1 touchdown. Yes, he had 6 touchdowns in senior campaign, but his total catches number dropped to just 30 and he was targeted at an extremely underwhelming rate during his senior year. With all of the productive tight ends to come out of the University of Iowa football program, it’s hard to believe that Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis don’t find even more ways to get them involved (George Kittle included).

Fiedorowicz now finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a first place Houston Texans team that somehow is 5-3 on the season but has scored 30 less points than they have given up on the year: a real head scratcher of a first place team. Fiedorowicz has been a big part of the team’s success; no longer just used in two tight end formations and special teams, Fiedorowicz has become a legitimate passing threat as Texans head coach Bill O’Brien utilizes him not only as a decoy to get guys like Will Fuller and Deandre Hopkins open, but as a primary red-zone target.

Big C.J. has become such a weapon for the Texans that he’s actually become a viable tight end and flex player option for fantasy football owners to use. So far in 2016, Fiedorowicz has more catches than he had in his first two NFL seasons combined (26 compared to 21) and more touchdowns (three compared to two). While O’Brien’s offense has looked shaky at times, Fiedorowicz has been a stalwart and has been a blessing for the overpaid and overhyped Brock Osweiler.

Keep an eye out for C.J. this Sunday when the Texans take on the lowly Jaguars at noon central time. The QB battle could be a battle of the bads when it comes to Osweiler and Blake Bortles, but the tight end matchup of Fiedorowicz and Jags’ star Marcedes Lewis will provide some much needed entertainment in the game.

What ex-Hawks to watch this weekend

While ex-Hawks Micah Hyde, Bryan Bulaga, and Mike Daniels got the W last night over the lowly Chicago Bears last night, there are plenty of other of ex-Hawks who will be making plays across this NFL this weekend.

Two Hawks in particular could be lined up head to head if Indianapolis Colts (4-2) center Austin Blythe sees some playing time on Sunday, as they take on division rival Tennessee (3-3) with former Iowa defensive lineman Karl Klug. In our interview with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos this past week, he noted Klug as being one of the toughest defenders he played with during his time at Iowa, labeling him a hard-nosed guy who brings it every day in practice. That game will begin at noon on Sunday.

In other Hawk vs. Hawk match-ups, CJ Fiedorowicz will look to continue to contribute for the AFC South division leading Houston Texans (4-2) as they head to Denver (4-2) on Monday to take on the Broncos. The Broncos’ long snapper is none other than ex-Hawk Casey Kreiter, who dare I say, has the best damn job in the world.

One other Hawk vs. Hawk match-up this week will feature the most common position of ex-Hawks to play each other on the field. Offensive lineman Riley Reiff of the Detroit Lions (3-3) and offensive lineman Brandon Scherff of the Washington Redskins (4-2) will square off as the Redskins look to make a push to overtake the Romo-less Cowboys for first place in the NFC East division.

(photo courtesy of Detroit Free Press)
(photo courtesy of Detroit Free Press)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Reiff and Scherff have the potential to be big-time players for both of their respective teams as their careers roll along. Both have settled into their roles and look to be future Marshall Yanda’s. As DJK noted in his interview with us, Iowa does it right at the offensive line position and they prepare their guys for the pro’s; hence the nickname Trenchwork University.

Trenchwork University

Kirk Ferentz breeds NFL linemen. While that is meant in the most literal sense because two of his sons have either previously played or currently play in the league, it is also in reference to the fact that of the 20 ex-Hawks currently on NFL teams, 14 of them play on the offensive or defensive line. Coincidence? Think again.

Ferentz has made a living, a pretty damn good one at that, by bringing in cornfed midwestern kids and having strength coach Chris Doyle pack on the pounds before turning out big-time NFL prospects come draft time every April. From Robert Gallery going number-two overall back in 2004, to Super Bowl champ and five-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda dominating the AFC North, the foundation of Iowa football is found in the trenches. Guys like second-year offensive lineman Brandon Scherff

continue to show that Chris Doyle created a system that has transcended into a linemen powerhouse, even though the strength coach is often labeled hot-headed and overpaid.

Ferentz and his staff have become so notorious for pumping out offensive linemen in particular that all the way back in 2010, Bleacher Report even did an article detailing who they thought were the top o-linemen that were drafted during Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa. Of those nine ex-Iowa offensive linemen who currently play in the NFL, three of them have Super Bowl rings, and four have made some sort of All-NFL or All-Rookie team.

As for the defensive linemen who used to call Kinnick Stadium home, four of them are still blossoming into the primes of their NFL careers, while Jonathan Babineaux is a 10-year veteran who recently became the longest tenured member of the Atlanta Falcons current roster.

Iowa’s M.O. has always been run the football and stop the run defensively and the reason Kirk Ferentz received his massive extension this year was because of the overall effectiveness he’s has sticking to his old school football roots. The buck starts and stops in the trenches for the Hawks and while Iowa has never produced NFL speedsters or flashy playmakers, the blue-collar ANF mantra is only bolstered by the plethora of NFL trench-men supplied by the Hawks.