Oct. 24, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Chigozie Ejiasi said he hopes to be a big brother and a father figure to the University of Iowa football players, especially the incoming freshmen. Ken O’Keefe said the Hawkeye offense is getting better and he does not read the internet.
Ejiasi, the University of Iowa’s first director of player development, and O’Keefe, the offensive coordinator, met the press for nearly an hour Friday inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex as the Hawkeye bye week nears an end.
“This situation is to be a big brother for these guys and at the same time be a dad for these guys also,” Ejiasi said. “I’m here to help them out any way I can. This is a good opportunity, not only for our players, but for the university. It gives our guys a head start being college student-athletes on this campus. I’m real excited about this opportunity and I look forward to the future of Iowa football.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz welcomed the media before introducing Ejiasi. He said the primary goal of the player development position is to supplement the players and the coaching staff and particularly assist the first-year players.
“Chic’s selection made perfect sense,” Ferentz said. “He has a great feel for the community, the university and certainly for our program. He has a great way with people and he’s totally respected by everybody in the program — coaches and players alike.”
Ejiasi was a four-year letterwinner at defensive back for the Hawkeyes from 2001-04. He was a member of Big Ten championship teams in 2002 and ’04. Ejiasi attended Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Prairie High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in health and sports studies in 2005.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to have someone to talk to when I first got here,” Ejiasi said. “It would have been nice to have the opportunity to talk to someone on a regular basis. Now our guys have the opportunity to come into my office any time they want. I’m here for these guys academically, socially, whatever it may be. They can talk to me about anything.”
Ejiasi called his position “a great opportunity” for the Hawkeye players and said he would measure his success if a player returned after four or five years and told him that he helped with their transition from high school to college.
“I thought it was executed just like we drew it up. We told Shonn before he went out there that we were going to run this play and that he was probably going to have to make the last five guys miss. He said he was fine with that and decided to finish it off. It was pretty special.”
UI offensive coordinator
Ken O’Keefe on a 34-yard TD run by Shonn Greene
“That would be the success I’m looking for,” Ejiasi said. “Making the transition as easy as possible and having someone to talk to…that’s what this is all about.”
Ejiasi said he reports to Ferentz. He will also be involved with academic checks, curfew checks and he will have monthly group meetings with the team as well as individual player meetings. He said the biggest challenge is the fact the incoming freshmen are away from home for the first time and they need assistance with the transition to college life.
So what is his message to the first-year players?
“You’re being watched, this in the University of Iowa,” he said. “As a football player you have to be on point with what you do and at the same time you’re here for academics — you can’t just rely on football. This is a great opportunity for you — come in and take advantage of the great opportunity.”
O’Keefe followed with an entertaining session where he made known his desire to quiz reporters, rather than the traditional format where the media asks the coach questions. He touched on subjects from the progress of the offense, the early-season quarterback competition and Shonn Greene to more personal topics such as being affected by criticism.
“I don’t deal with it,” O’Keefe said about criticism. “I don’t read the internet. You keep on truckin’ and we do what we need to do to get ready for the next ball game. Believe me, you don’t have time to concern yourself with anything else except helping our guys. I’m not concerned about it, I don’t deal with it and that’s it.”
O’Keefe said he feels the Iowa offense is getting better, primarily because it has taken care of the football the last two games.
“Taking care of the football is always the No. 1 priority,” he said. “No. 2 is eliminating those concentration mistakes.”
One of O’Keefe’s most refreshing answers came after he was asked about Greene’s second touchdown run during a 38-16 win against Wisconsin on Oct. 18.
“I thought it was executed just like we drew it up,” he said. “We told Shonn before he went out there that we were going to run this play and that he was probably going to have to make the last five guys miss. He said he was fine with that and decided to finish it off. It was pretty special.”
O’Keefe complimented quarterback Ricky Stanzi for his recent play and said the team’s quarterback competition required the coaches to make a difficult decision moving Jake Christensen to a backup role.
“These guys are all invested and work extremely hard in the off-season,” O’Keefe said. “Jake killed himself for this program and he put the program first since day 1. He has dreams and goals for us as a team and I’m sure for himself individually. When we make a decision to go a different direction, that’s not easy on him and it’s not easy on any of us because we know how much he’s invested. We care about him and have great respect for what he’s done.”
O’Keefe also scoffed at those who assume the Hawkeye offense is predictable.
“In what situations, third-and-18?” he asked. “If they know what’s going on, more power to ’em. I would say it would be hard to tell exactly what’s happening. How would you be able to predict exactly what’s going on, even if you had our game plan?”
O’Keefe concluded by saying that the overriding theme for the Iowa team is to stay focused on finding ways to get better.
“That’s really all it comes down to,” he said. “It’s a process.”
During his pre-conference monologue, Ferentz had this to say about his offensive coordinator:
“Ken’s done an outstanding job ever since day 1 when he joined the staff in the winter of 1998. He’s done a phenomenal job with our offensive football team and he’s an excellent football coach.”
To watch the Ejiasi-O’Keefe media conference in its entirety, click HERE.