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.

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.

Iowa quarterbacks and their lackluster NFL careers (pt. 2)

Chuck Long. Those are two words that hopefully every Iowa football fan, and Iowa State fan from the 80’s, knows very well. Chuck Long is not only an Iowa football legend, but a collegiate football legend. An inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Long partnered with the man most commonly associated with the rise in Iowa football, Hayden Fry, to form one of the Big Ten’s most dominant player and coach tandems of any decade…

 

…But did all of this success at the amateur levels lead to success for Sir Chuck Long in the NFL? In his words at the 2016 Nile C. Kinnick Scholarship Brunch, “Not even close.”

 

Long, like the late Randy Duncan, was a first round draft pick. While he didn’t go number-1 overall, he was highly touted and was a Consensus All-American, Davey O’Brien Award winner, and three-time First-team All-Big Ten Conference performer. Long was taken twelfth overall by the Detroit Lions in 1986, where he mostly mopped up after other bad quarterbacks for a few years, and even got the chance, from the sideline, to watch Barry Sanders work his magic during his rookie year in the league. After that, Long was dealt to Los Angeles to the Rams, and eventually wound up right back in Detroit in 1991 where he retired. Here’s a look at Long’s career stats in the NFL compared to his four-plus years he spent at Iowa:

 

Stats at Iowa (via sports-reference.com)

Year Games Cmp Att Cmp % Yds TD Int
1981 11 1 1 100 14 0 0
1982 11 129 201 64.2 1374 8 10
1983 11 144 236 61 2434 14 8
1984 13 216 322 67.1 2871 22 13
1985 11 231 351 65.8 2978 26 15

 

 

Stats in the NFL (via pro-football-reference.com)

Year Games Starts Cmp Att Cmp % Yds TD Int
1986 3 2 21 40 52.5 247 2 2
1987 12 12 232 416 55.8 2598 11 20
1988 7 7 75 141 53.2 856 6 6
1989 1 0 2 5 40 42 0 0
1990 4 0 1 5 20 4 0 0
1991 0 0 0 0 N/A 0 0 0

 

The stats speak for themselves. Just because you’re a Maxwell Award winner in a Hayden Fry system doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to the NFL. Long was runner up to THE Bo Jackson when he was in school and that meant absolute diddly when it came to being able to stand in the pocket and sling it against the big dogs. Sometimes the guys who seem to have all the tools just can’t seem to find an NFL system that’s right for them, and sometimes it’s the guys from the Division 1-AA of FCS programs who go on to tear it up week after week and year after year.

 

Keep an eye out for the third installment into this series, where we checkout another Heisman runner-up in Brad Banks.

Iowa Quarterbacks and their lackluster NFL careers

If you listen to Colin Cowherd’s sports talk-radio show then you probably think Iowa football is a joke, which to a point, maybe he’s right. If you pay great attention to the NFL, however, and keep track of who’s on what team and where so-and-so went to school, then you probably recognize the University of Iowa for having a smorgasbord of offensive and defensive lineman scattered across both conferences in the NFL. If you’re at least somewhere on this spectrum of football fans, can you name a single Iowa quarterback who has had substantial success at the game’s highest level?

Me neither…

ANF and the NFL decided to do some research and take a peek at the list of Iowa QB’s who have seen great success at the collegiate level, but have done their best Ryan Leaf impressions after the fact. Alright, that was rude, no ex-Hawk QB’s have made those types of Johnny Football-esque mistakes, but there really is not a single Iowa quarterback who has so much as won a division title, let alone a playoff game in the NFL.

We decided to focus this research on five of the most prominent quarterbacks in Iowa history: Randy Duncan, Chuck Long, Brad Banks, Drew Tate, and Ricky Stanzi. Duncan was a beloved Iowa quarterback who sadly passed away earlier this week at the age of 79. While his professional football career didn’t last long, he was a very successful lawyer in the Des Moines area for many years.

Duncan was the only Iowa football player to have been taken first overall in the NFL Draft. Duncan grew up an Iowa boy, from Des Moines, and attended the University of Iowa in the late 1950’s where he won two Rose Bowls and was an All-American for the Hawks. In 1959 he was selected first overall by the Green Bay Packers, but decided for some reason he would rather wear denim tuxedos and play pro-ball in Canada. Duncan was never able to blossom at the professional level, eventually signing with the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. After a short stint with the Texans, Duncan called it quits from football after he was traded for the legendary sideline smoker Len Dawson.

Duncan may have sold his own poison when he decided to leave the pre-Lombardi Packers in ’59, as they would go on to win World Championships in ’61 and ’62 and eventually win the first two Super Bowl titles in ’67 and ’68. Whatever the cause was for Duncan’s lack of success at the professional game, it will never tarnish the outstanding legacy he has within the Iowa football program. Duncan was a reverent Hawkeye through and through, and he will be missed by many.

 

*Look for part 2 of this series in an upcoming ANF and the NFL post.*

20 former Hawkeyes currently on NFL rosters

Yet again many of Kirk Ferentz’s former Iowa Hawkeye standouts will be making their presence felt on Sundays this NFL season. While the total number of ex-Hawks on NFL rosters is down from 2015, the University of Iowa still ranks in the top twenty-percent of the 119 NCAA Division I rankings with twenty total guys to start the 2016 season.

 

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Photo from @HawkeyeFootball, Twitter

 

Back in 2015, the Hawks ranked fourth out of the fourteen Big Ten Conference schools with 23 ex-Hawks on rosters. Perhaps the most interesting thing about those on NFL rosters is the lack of ‘skill-position’ players who are former Hawks. Of the 20 players currently in the NFL, just one is a ‘skill-position’ guy every down he is in, and that’s Tyler Sash’s former battery-mate Micah Hyde.

 

This number of skill-position players was originally thought to be two as the NFL’s regular season rapidly approached throughout August. However, on September 3, former one-year stud and Iowa record holder for touchdowns by a true freshman, Brandon Wegher, was released by the Carolina Panthers. Wegher has one of the most unique roads to the NFL for guys who played for Kirk Ferentz, as he wound up being an old-man of sorts finishing up his college football career with the Morningside Mustangs in Sioux City. Wegher is currently a free agent but is expected to become a member of the Panthers’ practice squad unless another team chooses to take a shot on him.

 

Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa teams are genetically the same year after year (run the ball, stop the run… repeat) and the prevalence of this is none more evident than when you take a look at where all of these ex-Hawks are playing in the league: 9/20 Iowa boys in the big leagues are o-linemen, another five of these are d-linemen, two are tight ends, three are linebackers, and one DB.

 

Will C.J. Beathard finally become the first Iowa quarterback since, IDK, ever to make a name for himself in the NFL??? Time will tell, but you can bet the big bucks that someone up front blocking for him will make a name for themselves on Sundays.