Cool, Calm, Collected

Oct. 3, 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 — The cool, calm demeanor that James Vandenberg displays as quarterback of the University of Iowa football team is a byproduct of watching his father over the years.

Dr. Toby Vandenberg — James’ father — is involved in daily pressure-packed situations as an emergency room physician at Great River Medical Center and Keokuk Hospital in Keokuk, Iowa. His profession calls for him to perform in intense situations while keeping his cool: attributes that are also beneficial for Division I college quarterbacks.

“It’s something I’ve seen growing up with my dad since I can remember,” said James Vandenberg, who ranks second in the Big Ten Conference and 23rd nationally with 273.8 passing yards per game. “My friends would come up with their eye balls hanging out, and he’d be really calm, setting them up on the table and popping their eye balls back in; obviously not to that extreme, but similar.

“I’ve seen a lot of surgical procedures happen on our dining room table over the years. I’d say 30-40 of them — my friends, my brother’s friends, my sister’s friends. I know something is really serious if he is ever flustered because he never gets flustered.”

Vandenberg recalls his father’s attitude when he was preparing to make his first collegiate start at Ohio State during the 2009 season.

“It’s something I comment to him all the time,” said James Vandenberg. “He was cool, and didn’t really say anything. He was going to go to the game, and it’s like he fully expected all of it. I was trying to keep my nerves down.”

Vandenberg performed admirably in Columbus, completing 20-of-33 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-24 overtime defeat. Now in his first year as a starter for the Hawkeyes, he has carried that attitude and calmness into his junior season.

Trailing Pittsburgh 24-3 late in the third quarter on Sept. 17, Vandenberg kept his composure and guided Iowa to the biggest come-from-behind victory in school history. He led the offense on touchdown scoring drives of 60, 73, 64 and 64 yards to rally for a 31-27 victory.

UI head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe have shown faith and confidence in Vandenberg’s decision-making by opening the playbook and allowing him to run a no-huddle, shotgun offense.

“We trust him,” said O’Keefe. “We feel he knows what he’s doing, and he’s a good leader. He can get us where he can, communicate what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. He can adjust if he has to.”

Vandenberg tries to emulate his father’s attitude in pressure situations because he knows it will allow him perform at the highest level.

“It’s something I try to take after, and it’s something I definitely saw in Rick (Stanzi), and I see the same thing in coach Ferentz and coach O’Keefe,” he said. “I think it is definitely the right mindset to have.”

Iowa (3-1) returns to action Saturday in Happy Valley, facing Penn State in its Big Ten opener. The game is set to kick off at 2:36 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on ABC or ESPN, depending on location.