Oct. 16, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two linebackers, two levels, two leaders.
When the official NCAA and NFL statistics were released Tuesday, there was something unique about the names on top of the tackle charts. The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leader is University of Iowa junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens; the NFL leader is former University of Iowa player, and current Minnesota Viking linebacker, Chad Greenway.
In six games, Hitchens has 30 solo and 48 assisted tackles for 78, an average of 13 per game. Second in the NCAA is Dan Molls of Toledo with 89 stops in seven games, an average of 12.71.
“I’m thankful for being in this position,” Hitchens said. “I have to give credit to my defensive line for keeping (offensive) linemen off me. I also have to credit James (Morris) and Chris (Kirksey) for being so good that teams want to run my way more. I’m enjoying the moment.”
Having the top tackler in the nation is great for the defense, Hawkeye senior defensive tackle Steve Bigach said.
“We don’t go up to Anthony and say, `Hey man, you’re leading the NCAA because of us,'” Bigach said. “We’re more focused on doing our job and if that allows a playmaker like Anthony to go out and make plays, then that’s great. That’s great for our defense.”
Greenway is tied with former Tennessee Volunteer Jerod Mayo — now with New England — with 61 tackles in six games. Former Penn State player NaVorro Bowman — now with San Francisco — is third with 60 stops.
“Hitch has worked hard, he has improved every week, and he’s doing some good things out there. I’m glad to see him progress. No big surprise with Chad, he is one of the best players we’ve ever had come through here, and like (Pat) Angerer (of the Indianapolis Colts), they live and breathe football. Hitch has come along, too.”
UI head football coach
“It’s a little unique to have the situation we are in right now,” Greenway said. “To have me leading the NFL and Anthony leading the NCAA is pretty cool. I’m hoping he can keep it going, and I can do the same.”
Greenway, who attended Iowa’s 18-17 victory against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1 in Chicago’s Soldier Field, has noticed how active Hitchens is during games.
“He is constantly around the football and making a ton of plays,” Greenway said. “I’m proud of what he has done.”
Prior to his weekly news conference, UI head coach Kirk Ferentz was informed about the two tackle leaders.
“Hitch has worked hard, he has improved every week, and he’s doing some good things out there. I’m glad to see him progress,” Ferentz said. “No big surprise with Chad, he is one of the best players we’ve ever had come through here, and like (Pat) Angerer (of the Indianapolis Colts), they live and breathe football. Hitch has come along, too.”
Hitchens compiled nine tackles as a freshman and 25 as a sophomore. During his first five seasons with the Vikings, Greenway has tackle totals of 105, 115, 99, 144 and 154.
For a linebacker to post large numbers, Greenway acknowledges the need for a quality, and in many ways selfless, defensive front.
“In some cases they are taking on two blockers to keep you clean,” Greenway said. “Linebackers are in the best situation to make the most tackles, so it’s part of doing your job. At the same time, there are a lot of people giving up things statistically to let you make plays. When the opportunities come, you have to rise up and make the play. You make the plays you’re supposed to make, and then make a few you’re not.”
There is also a similarity between the teams for which Hitchens and Greenway play. Both the Hawkeyes and the Vikings enter the weekend with a record of 4-2. Iowa hosts Penn State on Oct. 20 inside Kinnick Stadium, with a 7:01 p.m. (CT) kickoff; the Vikings play the Arizona Cardinals on Mall of America Field in Minneapolis on Oct. 21, with a noon (CT) start.
The all-time tackle leader for the Hawkeyes is Larry Station with 492 from 1982-83. Greenway is fifth on the career list with 416 from 2002-05.
“I’m getting to the point now where I’m getting a little long in the tooth and I’m just a name to a lot of these guys,” Greenway said.
It’s a name that the current Hawkeyes, including Hitchens, know and respect. But that doesn’t mean Hitchens, a native of Lorain, Ohio, is going to be rooting for the purple and gold on Sundays.
“I’m a hometown Browns fan,” he said with a smile.