Big Game Calls for Big-Play Dwight

Nov. 5, 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 — It’s a big football week in Iowa City and University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz called on one of the biggest big-play threats in Hawkeye history as honorary captain.

Iowa City native and City High graduate Tim Dwight, a consensus All-American in 1997, spoke to the team yesterday after a walk-through in the Kenyon Football Practice Facility. Iowa (5-3 overall, 2-2 Big Ten Conference) hosts No. 13 Michigan (7-1, 3-1) with an 11:01 a.m. (CT) kickoff from Kinnick Stadium.

“You have to fight in this game; it’s a tough game and no one is going to be there to bail you out,” Dwight said. “You have to play hard, you have to play aggressive and passionate and with fire. You have an opportunity to go out there and play against a team that has a lot of great athletes and has a great tradition.”

Dwight’s total of 1,102 punt return yards from 1994-97 is still the most in the history of any player from the Big Ten. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft by Atlanta. His 10-year professional career included stops with San Diego, New England, New York Jets and Oakland before he retired in 2007. He returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIII against Denver in 1999.

“I’ll never forget the scouts talking about Tim,” said Ferentz, recalling his days as an assistant coach for the Baltimore Ravens. “They said coach (Hayden) Fry called Tim Dwight the best, most complete football player he had ever coached.”

Iowa played Michigan twice during Dwight’s career. The Wolverines won both times — 29-14 in 1994 in Iowa City and 28-24 in 1997 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Dwight returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown at Michigan. That score gave Iowa a 21-7 lead at halftime. He added a 72-yard kickoff return in the third period that set up a field goal, giving the Hawkeyes a 24-21 edge.

The Wolverines finished 12-0 that season and won the national championship according to the Associated Press.

“It was nice to see we competed pretty well against a team that won the national title,” Dwight said.

Dwight likened the invitation as honorary captain to signing his letter of intent “to a school you always believed in.” This is his fourth trip back to Kinnick this fall; he also saw the Hawkeyes defeat Tennesse Tech (34-7), Northwestern (41-31) and Indiana (45-24).

“I watched the kid have a hat trick, which was pretty sweet,” Dwight said.

Against Indiana on Oct. 22, UI wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., caught six passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. The receiving scores moved McNutt past Dwight and Danan Hughes for the most touchdown receptions in school history.

Dwight told the Hawkeyes to play like they did against Northwestern and Indiana and move past last week’s upset loss at Minnesota.

“This is the Big Ten, you’re going to get beat,” Dwight said. “We got beat, but we rebounded and we played.”

Dwight led the Hawkeyes in receiving in 1995 (46 catches, 816 yards, nine touchdowns), 1996 (51-751-4) and 1997 (42-704-8). He was seventh in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1997 (won by Charles Woodson of Michigan).

“Big game, right? Michigan,” Dwight said. “This is why you went to Iowa. These are the games you want to show up in. I’m going to be in the stands and you’re going to hear me cheering, because fans are a part of the game, too. That’s another reason you guys came here: to play in front of these fans. The fans have to come ready, too.”

The memory of playing in front of a packed Kinnick Stadium makes Dwight smile.

“It’s like you’re floating on the grass because you have so much adrenaline and there is so much energy in this place,” Dwight said. “It’s like you’re Superman and you’re floating out there — just enjoying a day where everyone comes together and has a party, and you play hard.”