Nov. 24, 2004
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NOTE: This article is one of five profiling the senior class of the 2004 Iowa Hawkeyes. It originally appeared in one of the football game programs.
Almost everybody on the Iowa football team has a nickname. Offensive lineman Pete McMahon’s is perhaps the most telling.
His teammates call him: Silent Rage.
The ominous-sounding nickname is a pretty good one for the man who has the unenviable task of succeeding 2003 Outland Trophy winner and Oakland Raider Robert Gallery.
According to Head Coach Kirk Ferentz, the name fits for a guy who “quietly goes about his business.”
McMahon was one of the most unheralded walk-ons to come to the University of Iowa with hopes of a scholarship.
McMahon garnered almost no awards during his high school career except for two varsity letters from Dubuque Wahlert. And because of his position on the offensive and defensive lines, he barely had any statistics.
The senior doesn’t talk about himself very much either, which made winning a spot on a competitive offensive line even more difficult.
But with the help of a highlight tape that his brother made for him in the film room at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, McMahon’s “rage” showed through and earned him a spot on the team.
“I kind of fell into it,” McMahon says of his path to become a Hawkeye. “I remember when I talked to (Coach Ken) O’Keefe as a senior in high school, and he said that (2000) was a really great time to come here as an O-line walk on.
“Two classes ahead of me was the group that had been playing together for a few years. With them out of there, that opened up a lot of spots for a guy like me to come in and be part of the program for about two years. I could learn and develop and then that first group moved out and opened up spots for me.”
“We’re walk-on friendly. Our attitude is once a player joins our team, we really don’t care how he got here or what his age is – if he’s a senior or a freshman, scholarship or non-scholarship. We treat all of our players like Hawkeyes. I think our players know that.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
After he joined the team, though, McMahon’s hopes for a starting position on the line didn’t always seem realistic.
“When you come in, you’re kind of a scrub,” McMahon says. “But then after a year or so, you figure out where your place is. I saw I could have an opportunity to play so I stuck with it and improved.”
“We’re walk-on friendly,” says Ferentz. “Our attitude is once a player joins our team, we really don’t care how he got here or what his age is – if he’s a senior or a freshman, scholarship or non-scholarship. We treat all of our players like Hawkeyes. I think our players know that.
“(McMahon) just quietly came to the campus, and he’s quietly gone to work since day one. He’s really worked hard in all phases. He’s a very coachable player.”
McMahon’s hard work shows in merely chatting about his position at right tackle. Able to go into even the smallest detail, the tackle says playing on the offensive line comes down to technique.
“The main thing Coach Ferentz teaches is technique,” he says. “You have to stay in front of the guy. On a pass play, the defensive guy is going to try to get inside of you and around you, so you have to stay centered in front of him. And you have to keep your shoulders back. If you lean back too far, they’ll pull you.”
“On run plays, we want to have one step and one step. We stand over the line and we want one step to go across the line and other to land right on the line, so we spend a lot of time on those minor details (at practices).
“It’s all about a game of inches. If our steps are getting three inches too wide, we’ll work on bringing it in three inches. To someone who really doesn’t know anything about it, you really don’t see it,” McMahon adds.
McMahon credits the focus on technique for the improvement over the past five years.
“It’s not like this just happened overnight,” he said. “We’ve put in so much time and work. The coaching is amazing. You spend a lot of time off the field with each other, watching film, doing drills with the O-linemen.
“It’s not just three hours at practice.”
Communicating that to the younger players that compose the rest of the line might be the biggest handicap for the senior that has `silent’ in his nickname.
“I could work on my vocal leadership,” he says. “I’ve never been a big rah-rah guy. For me it’s kind of a lead by example thing. I want to be a guy who goes out everyday and works as hard as I can I have to be in there watching extra tape and have younger guys come in and do that with me.
“Hopefully they’ll see the senior doing that and think that maybe they should do it too.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com