Dec. 23, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When University of Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher raves about resources at his fingertips as a Hawkeye, he is referring to more than an indoor practice field or state-of-the-art strength and conditioning facility.
A strong athletic tradition — and more specifically a strong football tradition — is just one area where Iowa shines brightly. Vicki and Carl — Fletcher’s parents — were no doubt proud watching their son help Iowa to 27 football victories since 2005 which led to two trips to the Outback Bowl and one to the Alamo Bowl. But it is an academic milestone that truly sticks out for the family from Youngstown, Ohio.
“I was able to graduate in four years,” said Fletcher, who majored in health and sports studies. “It meant a lot to me, but I know it meant even more to my mother to see her first son graduate at the college level. I know she was very proud and I was happy she was able to be here for that moment.”
The University of Iowa has a long and storied academic reputation to complement its prowess on the gridiron. For teams playing in a January, 2009, bowl game, Iowa has the third-highest football graduation rate (75 percent). Sixteen UI football players were recently named Academic all-Big Ten earlier this month.
“We have great resources here,” Fletcher said. “There are academic advisors, tutors…you have everything here you need to be successful and getting a degree is what matters most.”
With semester recess, the Hawkeye student-athletes can now devote their undivided attention to South Carolina, their opponent in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa (sunny and 73 degrees today).
“It’s going to be a new challenge going against South Carolina and we have to have ourselves ready,” Fletcher said. “They have good receivers and we’ll have to train ourselves and find ways to defend them. They have a really good offense and we’ll have to play well.”
The Gamecocks are led in receiving by Kenny McKinley who caught 48 passes for 556 yards and four touchdowns in just nine games. Jared Cook caught 35 passes and three others — Moe Brown (27), Jason Barnes (22) and Mike Davis (21) — had more than 20 receptions.
“I was able to graduate in four years. It meant a lot to me, but I know it meant even more to my mother to see her first son graduate at the college level. I know she was very proud and I was happy she was able to be here for that moment.”
UI senior cornerback
With 20 interceptions, the Hawkeye defense tied for sixth with Boise State in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision statistics. On the contrary, South Carolina quarterbacks were picked off 24 times, ranking 118th out of 119 teams (SMU threw 25 interceptions).
“We take a lot of pride in (interceptions) because we know that we’re giving our team a chance to win by putting our offense on the field more,” Fletcher said. “South Carolina throws the ball (an average of 33.5 times per game), so that means we’ll have opportunities. We’ll still have to play the game.”
Fletcher, a senior, starts at left cornerback for a defense that ranks eighth in the country in scoring defense (13.3 points per game) and 13th in total defense (289.5 yards per game). He joins defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul as the only senior starters on the defense.
“Coming into the season I thought we could be a decent defense and I think we were probably a decent defense,” UI defensive coordinator Norm Parker said. “The good thing about the defense is that the three seniors — King, Kroul and Fletcher — played the best football of their career as seniors.”
Fletcher tied fellow Hawkeyes Pat Angerer and Amari Spievey for most solo tackles on the team this season (30). He was fifth overall with 42 stops, one pass interception and a team-high eight pass breakups. Fletcher was rewarded by being named honorable mention all-Big Ten by the coaches and media. He received a defensive hustle team award at the Iowa football banquet Dec. 13.
“I’m honored to be selected and I appreciate it,” Fletcher said. “It’s something I’ll remember as my life goes on.”
So far in his career, Fletcher has compiled 134 tackles (86 solo, 48 assists) with 15 breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. The Outback Bowl will be his 21st career and 16th consecutive start. Although Fletcher saw action in both the 2006 Outback and 2006 Alamo bowls, he did not compile any statistics.
To view a 34-image photo gallery from Tuesday’s practice — available exclusively on hawkeyesports.com — CLICK HERE.
Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who live in the Heartland or in the Sunshine State or in all points between should note that the UI Athletics Ticket Office is accepting ticket orders for the 2009 Outback Bowl. Click here to purchase your tickets online. Fans can also purchase over the phone by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or over-the-counter at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.