Sept. 3, 2014
- Hawkeye Football Game Day
- 2014 Fall Camp Central
- Read the September issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone/iPad app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye android app
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Don’t be fooled when looking at the University of Iowa football roster and you see that freshman linebacker Ben Niemann is from Sycamore, Illinois.
Niemann was born in Des Moines in 1995 and lived in the state of Iowa until sixth grade. The Hawkeye State, he says, is home.
Niemann is not repeating a company line. It would take more than an ordinary situation or a run-of-the-mill football program to pry him from a commitment to play for his father, Jay, who is defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Northern Illinois.
“Iowa has always kind of been my home the way I looked at it,” Niemann said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com “I would have loved to play for my dad and it was a tough decision, but when I visited here, I felt at home and I love the coaches and players. It felt like I fit here.”
Jay Niemann coached at Drake (Des Moines), Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls), and Simpson College (Indianola), before leaving the state of Iowa for Hardin-Simmons (2008-10) and Northern Illinois (2011-present). Ben graduated from Sycamore (Illinois) High School where he was named team and conference MVP, as well as first team all-state.
“We’re thrilled he’s here, he had a good preseason,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Ben is a football guy, has a good mentality, and works hard. We’re thrilled he’s on our football team.”“It was exciting; the Kinnick atmosphere was crazy. Everybody said it was going to be loud, but you don’t really know what it’s like until you actually step on the field. When I was out there for nickel, I couldn’t even hear what the safety was saying to me. It was crazy and a lot of fun.”Ben Niemann
UI freshman linebacker
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Niemann is one of two true freshmen (defensive back Miles Taylor is the other) to see action for the Hawkeyes during a season-opening 31-23 win against Northern Iowa on Aug. 30. He was in on one play in the nickel set, and also saw action on kickoff and punt return teams.
Niemann made the first tackle of the season for the Hawkeyes, stopping Northern Iowa’s Darrian Miller after a 20-yard kickoff return.
“It was exciting; the Kinnick atmosphere was crazy,” Niemann said. “Everybody said it was going to be loud, but you don’t really know what it’s like until you actually step on the field. When I was out there for nickel, I couldn’t even hear what the safety was saying to me. It was crazy and a lot of fun.”
Niemann acknowledges that preparing in college is a world away from preparing in high school. With his feet wet, he is more at ease as the Hawkeyes get ready to host Ball State on Sept. 6.
“First week (of the regular season) and in camp I had a lot of stuff thrown at me, so at times it is overwhelming,” Niemann said. “This week I have had the experience of (playing against Northern Iowa) and kind of know what to expect going into game week. It’s nice, I’m not as tense and tight about it, I’m more relaxed.”
Before coming to camp, UI linebackers coach LeVar Woods told Niemann to practice hard and compete for a spot at linebacker. By the end of camp, Woods and Niemann had another talk, this time about playing in the season opener.
Ben listened to Woods and also sought advice from his father, who knows a few things about when student-athletes are ready to perform at the Division I level.
“(My dad) talked to coach Woods and they thought getting me on the field this year would help me become the best player I possibly can be,” Niemann said. “And help me help this team at the quickest rate I could.”