Wegher Reflects On Signing Day

Feb. 3, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the Feb. 3 edition of the Official Sports Report (OSR) for the University of Iowa. OSR is a daily e-newsletter exclusively about the Iowa Hawkeyes. Click HERE to learn more.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Last year at this time Brandon Wegher wanted to urgently fax his signed name to the NCAA and confirm what he had known his entire senior year of high school:

Wegher was going to play football for the University of Iowa.

“Since I announced I was committing to Iowa in the summer (of 2008), I felt I was already a part of the Iowa program from my senior season (of high school) all the way through signing day,” Wegher said. “It wasn’t like a big relief on signing day, it was just like another paper I had to sign.”

The prized UI running back recruit from Sioux City (Iowa) Heelan High School was ready to move on to the next challenge in his career as a student-athlete. Wegher sat at a table with a handful of other Crusader athletes who were also making their collegiate choices public that morning. There was little doubt that the headliner of the group was Wegher, who rushed for 6,823 yards in his career and as a senior ran for 3,238 yards and scored 342 points.

“Iowa felt like home,” Wegher said. “Coach (Reese) Morgan made so many visits to come talk to me. With the Iowa coaches I felt I was more wanted here than anywhere else. Then with the running back situation (Doak Walker Award-winner Shonn Greene going to the NFL), I felt I could come in here and compete. It was a school close to home and I didn’t want to go far away.”

People were a major reason Wegher became a Hawkeye — that included coaches and fans.

“Fan base was a big one,” Wegher said. “Iowa fans are pretty crazy about Iowa football. That was a big factor, knowing you would always have support from the fans. That’s a big thing a college program needs. I visited some great facilities and that didn’t really phase me. If you have the facilities and you don’t have the coaches, it’s not worth it.”

Wegher didn’t need an opener when the postal service delivered what he dubbed “generic letters” from colleges.

“I never looked at them,” Wegher said. “I got the true facts from the coaches.”

Things worked out well for Wegher, who as a freshman, played a significant role during Iowa’s 11-2 season, capped with a victory in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl. For the season, Wegher carried the ball 162 times for 641 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes and returned nine kicks.

“Fan base was a big one. Iowa fans are pretty crazy about Iowa football. That was a big factor, knowing you would always have support from the fans. That’s a big thing a college program needs. I visited some great facilities and that didn’t really phase me. If you have the facilities and you don’t have the coaches, it’s not worth it.”
UI running back
Brandon Wegher

“I just tried to do as I was told and help the team,” Wegher said. “I wanted to fill in and be a team guy.”

During a short post-bowl January break back near his home in Dakota Dunes, S.D., Wegher was reminded by friends that he is acquiring a knack for finishing big games. The last time he touched the ball during the 2008 Class 3A state championship game, Wegher capped a 35-10 victory against Decorah by returning an interception 102 yards (officially 100 yards) for a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. The last time he touched the ball during the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl, Wegher capped a 24-14 victory against Georgia Tech by rushing 32 yards for a touchdown with 1:56 remaining.

“I was pretty pumped up running into the end zone,” Wegher said of the bowl-clinching score. “Then it was time to celebrate with the team because I knew that our defense wasn’t going to let anything happen.”

UI head coach Kirk Ferentz will officially announce the 2010 Hawkeye recruiting class this afternoon at 3:30 with a press conference in the player’s auditorium in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. By all accounts, it is a very solid 21-member group.

“We’re enthused,” Ferentz said. “This has been an unusual year in that we’ve never had so many commitments early. Basically by the end of the regular season we were probably 90 percent done with our recruiting. We feel good about the group. We feel good about the players coming in, not only in terms of their talents and abilities, but we project them to be real good fits into our program and into our community and the University. Those are pluses, also.”

It remains to be seen whether any of the rookies will have an immediate impact in 2010. Wegher knows they will all have an opportunity.

“Depending on their skill level, if they’re ready, they’ll come in and play,” Wegher said. “I proved that last year and so did (wide receiver) Keenan (Davis) and (defensive back) Micah (Hyde). If you’re ready, they’ll look at you (as a true freshman), but there are no guarantees.”

A Hawkeye highlight video from the past season wouldn’t be complete without images of Wegher making a one-handed grab at Iowa State or launching his body airborne on numerous occasions into the end zone. Oddly, one of his most cherished statistics is an assisted tackle recorded during a season-opening win against Northern Iowa.

“A highlight for me was just being out there the first game of the season,” Wegher said. “I didn’t play running back at all against UNI, but I was on a couple kickoff coverages and I had a tackle. I wouldn’t have cared if I wasn’t even out there. Just being on the sidelines and being part of Iowa football was the big thing for me.”

Current freshmen are an excellent resource for the new recruits and Wegher said getting to Iowa City as soon as possible helped him most as he acclimated to life as a Hawkeye. On June 7, 10 days after graduating from high school, Wegher moved to Iowa City and began training with UI strength coach Chris Doyle and the team.

“The main thing is to get here in the summer and find your way around and get used to Iowa City without all the students here,” Wegher said. “That makes things so much easier and you’re not lost when school starts. You get to know the city, the coaches and the team, and you work out with the team. You get to know the players and understand how they work out and the priorities you need to set.”

Wegher called his first season at Iowa “a lot of work, a lot of fun.” Now he’s ready to welcome the most recent recruiting class, and together, aim for some lofty heights in 2010.

“I’m going to train as hard as I can this winter and throughout the summer and become more of a college athlete — more athletic, physical, strong, get more quickness and learn the system a little more. You can never do too much studying film or learning the playbook. From there I’ll go into spring ball and camp and compete for that running back job. We’re going to have great competition there.”

Not only does Adam Robinson return after leading the team with 834 rushing yards, but so does Jewel Hampton, who gained 463 yards with seven touchdowns in 2008. All 10 Hawkeyes that had a rushing attempt this season return next fall.

“Everyone can learn from everybody,” Wegher said. “Everybody feeds off each other, everybody pushes each other. No matter who comes out on top, you know they’re going to be the best because they’ve been pushed.”