July 29, 2015
- 2015 UI Football Fall Camp Central
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- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, July 29, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2015-16 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Drew Ott didn’t sleep well before his first collegiate football game as a true freshman in 2012. Add three years and 40 pounds, and now his opponents are tossing and turning the night before kickoff.
Ott is a University of Iowa senior defensive end from Trumbull, Nebraska. When he arrived in Iowa City, Ott weighed between 235-240 pounds; he is now 275. The last two seasons Ott has started 25 games, recorded 107 tackles and 18 ½ tackles for loss. He laughs when reflecting on the Ott of 2012 compared to the Ott of 2015.
“I am more confident and I have more size,” he said. “I got man-handled a little (during a 28-17 loss at Northwestern in his first game). Since then I have packed on weight and strength thanks to (strength and conditioning coach Chris) Doyle. I have come a long way.”
During his junior season of 2014, Ott led the Hawkeyes with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Compiling those statistics was made easier after requesting to battle Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff every day in practice.
Ott started 12 games at left end as a sophomore, then switched to right end as a junior.
“If you want to be the best, you have to go against the best,” Ott said. “That was a great opportunity. It taught me that I have to come to work every day and I had to be focused every day, otherwise (Scherff) was going to put me on my butt. I had to rely on my technique because I wasn’t going to beat him with power or speed.”
Ott’s confidence soared after persisting against the best interior lineman in college football.
“I viewed Saturday as a day off from him,” Ott said.
This will be the third consecutive season as a starter for Ott. The two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection was named second-team All-Big Ten by media and honorable mention by coaches after the 2014 season when the Hawkeyes finished 7-6 and played in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Hawkeye fans think of Ott as one of the top defensive ends in the Big Ten Conference and a shoo-in for an NFL career. Ott jokes that his first two years on campus his name was synonymous with scooters and facial hair.
“Iowa was a good fit for me; they develop people and I needed a lot of developing. It was a no-brainer for me, but it took me awhile to even pronounce coach Ferentz’s name and I was pretty confused at first. I didn’t know anything about Iowa. I came in pretty blind.”
UI senior defensive end
After his sophomore season, Ott rode a moped 450 miles on back roads from Iowa City to his home in Nebraska. The trip took 12 hours. On the Monday after being named Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week against Ball State, Ott was injured in a car-scooter accident. He played five days later against Iowa State.
“For my first two years here (I was known) more for my scooter than my football,” Ott said.
He is also recognized for wild hair styles. During his career, Ott has sported a mullet, Mohawk, and an ultra-full beard. He pledges to keep his hair short this season, but the beard is a different story.
“When I was younger I always liked beards, I thought they were manly and made you look a little tougher,” Ott said. “I need to look as tough as I can.”
Ott was named Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012 after starring in 8-man football where he seemingly did it all for Giltner High School. His senior season Ott had 122 tackles, 52 pass receptions, two rushing touchdowns, and one passing touchdown.
UI assistant coach Reese Morgan recruited Ott and has been his position coach since 2012.
“He has great self-confidence, believes in himself and likes the challenge,” Morgan said. “He doesn’t back away from anything. He thinks he’s a better player than some people perceive him to be. He is very humble, competitive, and tough.”
Ott remembers the day Morgan showed up at Giltner. Ott was lifting weights when he noticed a man in an Iowa polo walking in the room.
“Iowa was a good fit for me; they develop people and I needed a lot of developing,” Ott said. “It was a no-brainer for me, but it took me awhile to even pronounce coach Ferentz’s name and I was pretty confused at first. I didn’t know anything about Iowa. I came in pretty blind.”
Ott is one of three Hawkeyes on the defensive line that played 8-man football in high school. The others are senior Nate Meier (Fremont-Mills in Iowa) and sophomore Nathan Bazata (Howells-Dodge in Nebraska).
Like so many great Hawkeye linemen, Ott is a good old farm boy. In fact, when he is through with football, he wants to run the 2,500-acre family farm in the middle of Nebraska.
“The closest town to me is 210 people so there wasn’t much going on,” Ott said. “Since a young age, dad always had me on a tractor or feeding (100 head of) cows. I was always with him doing something.”
He also helped with the crops: corn, hay, soybeans, and wheat. But gathering eggs wasn’t a specialty.
“I don’t know if I always gathered the eggs the best,” he said. “I got yelled at for that.”
While much is made about a 275-pound football player riding around campus on a moped, Ott also has a trucker’s license and drives semis full of grain.
“There aren’t a lot of Division I athletes that can say that,” Ott said. “It is a little bigger than the scooter and a little more responsibility behind that wheel.”
From a leadership perspective, Ott was a scooter in 2012, now he is a semi. The lessons he learned from his role model Dom Alvis, as well as interior defensive linemen like Carl Davis and Louis-Trinca Pasat, is being passed on to the next group of potential all-conference Hawkeyes.
“This year I have to help the younger kids work on their technique because that is how you get the job done,” Ott said. “I want to work hard every day to improve. Hopefully people can follow that leadership and get things going in the right direction.”