Feb. 1, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s an eerie feeling when Hawkeye football fans reflect on the Erie connection.
Bob Sanders played football at the University of Iowa from 2000-03 and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Ed Hinkel was a Hawkeye from 2002-05, where he caught 135 passes, returned 62 punts and scored 16 touchdowns. Like Hinkel, Jovon Johnson played for the UI from 2002-05 and in 2011 became the first defensive back to win the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award.
Sanders, Hinkel and Johnson played their high school ball in Erie, Pa. So did running back Greg Garmon, one of 22 soon-to-be collegians who signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to play football for the Hawkeyes. That group joins junior college transfers Eric Simmons (offensive lineman) and Cody Sokol (quarterback), who are already on campus.
So this feeling of eeriness is one of remembering supernatural feats of yesteryear…and the potential of great accomplishments to come.
“He’s got a tremendous demeanor and outlook and attitude,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said of Garmon. “He’s a very positive and talented young man. We haven’t had much luck (recruiting) in the state of Pennsylvania overall, but Erie, Pennsylvania has been really good to us. We are thrilled to get him on the team.”
Two legacies are among the newest signees — offensive lineman Mitch Keppy, son of former Hawkeye Myron (1986-87), and George Krieger-Kittle, son of Bruce (1977-81), who is now a member of the coaching staff at the University of Oklahoma. Krieger-Kittle is projected to play either tight end, wide receiver, or outside linebacker.
“Football’s all about team work and doing the best for the team. But in recruiting, it’s the one time a football player has to do what’s best for them. They have to get down to what’s going to make them happy. For us to pretend like we know, that’s being presumptuous.”
UI head football coach
“We got on Mitch a little bit and picked him up on the radar screen from the wrestling, first and foremost,” Ferentz said. “I think we were one of his first offers last spring. He came out to spring ball one day with his dad, and just impressed us. Obviously, his tape impressed us. So we’re thrilled about him. We think (Krieger-Kittle is) a guy that has a chance in our program to blossom and develop, so we’re excited. He’s got good ball skills, and might be a tight end or an outside linebacker. We’re not sure where he’s going to fit, but we think he’s a good football player and we’re happy to get him. I know playing here is important to him and that certainly counts, too.”
According to Ferentz, one of the most charismatic recruits is defensive back Maurice Fleming from Chicago. The fast and versatile Fleming was one of four signees from the Chicagoland area. The others are defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie, defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson and offensive lineman Ryan Ward.
“A nice sidebar or a nice benefit we enjoyed is that Maurice is pretty active, and players seem to know players,” Ferentz said. “He was active on the recruiting front. He’s got a great personality. And he’s pretty persuasive. I don’t think there’s any question he helped us a little bit with some of the other guys and we appreciate that.”
Running backs Barkley Hill (Cedar Falls) and Nate Meier (Tabor) and Simmons (Madrid) are from the state of Iowa.
When student-athletes sign, they not only commit to playing for the Hawkeyes, but they also ensure that they will continue to be around one of the ultimate team experiences in all of sports. But Ferentz said the recruiting process is when a player has to do what’s best for him.
“Football’s all about team work and doing the best for the team,” Ferentz said. “But in recruiting, it’s the one time a football player has to do what’s best for them. They have to get down to what’s going to make them happy. For us to pretend like we know, that’s being presumptuous.”
Members of the 2012 Iowa signing class are from 12 states and two countries (Ekakitie and wide receiver Tevaun Smith are from Ontario, Canada). Eighteen helped their high school teams advance to the state playoffs and five were on state championship teams. Hill (Iowa) and defensive lineman Drew Ott (Nebraska) were named state Players of the Year, while Meier was named Player of the Year among Iowa’s eight-man teams.
The Hawkeyes are coming off their fourth consecutive bowl appearance and will begin spring practice Saturday, March 24. Iowa opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois in Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Ekakitie, Fleming, Johnson and Ward will feel right at home.