Former Hawkeyes Among NFL Leaders

Sept. 23, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Chances are, on any given day or night you flip on an NFL game on television, a former University of Iowa football player, or coach, will be in action.

The NFL keeps very close track of all the players on NFL opening day rosters, and the fact is the Hawkeye football program has a large number of former players active in the NFL. When the 2011 season began two weeks ago tonight in Green Bay, 32 former Iowa players were listed on active rosters. That number doesn’t include several players who were placed on injured reserve or practice squads, or listed as free agents as they moved from one team to another. Twenty-four of 32 NFL teams had at least one former Hawkeye on its roster.

How does the Iowa program stack up? Very well, thank you, both nationally and in the Big Ten Conference. The 32 former Hawkeyes ranked eighth-best among the 238 college teams represented with a former player on an NFL roster. That left Iowa trailing Miami (Fla.) (42), Southern California (41), Texas (40), Tennessee (36), Louisiana State (35), Ohio State (35) and Georgia (34), but ahead of programs such as Florida (30), California (28) and Maryland (28).

In addition to the 32 active players on opening day, another 14 former Hawkeyes were listed as either free agents, practice squad players or on injured reserve. Practice squad members are often first and second year NFL players who are kept with a team for practice, and to fill out roster spots when injuries occur.

The list of injured reserve players includes a number of former Hawkeyes, including kicker Nate Kaeding, tight end Tony Moeaki, linebacker Jeremiha Hunter, and offensive lineman Eric Steinbach, all of who could miss the entire season.

The NFL also ranks players and schools by position, and Iowa is at the head of the list in at least two spots. With veteran Jason Baker and rookie Ryan Donahue, Iowa is one of two schools (Tennessee) two have two punters currently active in the NFL. Iowa and Nebraska lead the way with four offensive guards in the league, and the Hawkeyes’ list includes 11 offensive linemen, among which are Matt Kroul and Bryan Mattison, players who competed on defense for the Hawkeyes before moving to the offensive line in the NFL.

The list of linemen also includes veteran center Casey Wiegmann. Wiegmann has built the longest streak in the NFL for offensive lineman by playing over 9,000 consecutive offensive plays while playing for both the Chiefs and Broncos.

Iowa is represented in the NFL at just about every position, including offensive line, tight ends, running backs and a quarterback on offense, and linemen, linebackers and defensive backs on defense. Along with two punters, the list includes a placekicker (Kaeding) and a long snapper (rookie Andy Schulze).

Iowa features five tight ends in the NFL, led by Pro Bowler Dallas Clark (Indianapolis). Moeaki (Kansas City) had a very productive rookie season in 2010 before suffering a knee injury in training camp prior to this season. Scott Chandler (Buffalo) has three touchdown receptions in two games, and Brandon Myers (Oakland) was in the starting lineup on opening day. Rookie Allen Reisner has gone between the active roster and the practice squad with the Minnesota Vikings. With Reisner on the active roster, Iowa ties LSU as the leader with five tight ends in the NFL.

The Iowa ties in the NFL extends beyond former players, as a number of coaches have ties with the Hawkeyes, including Jim Caldwell, a former UI player and current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Former Iowa assistant Joe Philben is the offensive coordinator with the Packers, while Ron Aiken is the defensive line coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Caldwell, Philben and Aiken have all helped their teams reach the Super Bowl.

Others in the NFL with Iowa ties include Mike Devlin, the offensive line coach for the New York Jets, Tom Moore, formerly an assistant coach with the Colts who is now with the Jets, Pat Flaherty, offensive line coach with the New York Giants, and Brian Ferentz, who is the tight ends coach with the New England Patriots.

For those who might be fans of professional football but not fans of a particular team, it isn’t hard to find a former Hawkeye to cheer on when watching an NFL game.