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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — C.J. Beathard wasn’t looking in a mirror or talking about himself Tuesday when describing a University of Iowa quarterback.
“He is a smart player with a strong arm,” Beathard said. “He’s a smart kid, a good kid.”
Beathard was assessing his somewhat surprising backup, true freshman Nathan Stanley from Menomonie, Wisconsin.
“It’s tough to come in here as a true freshman quarterback and play, and he played in the first game,” Beathard said. “That says a lot about his talent and ability.”
With 5:06 left in Iowa’s 45-21 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 3, Beathard stayed on the sideline and Stanley inherited the Hawkeye offense. The rookie led a five-play, 18-yard drive that was capped by Derrick Mitchell, Jr.’s, 5-yard touchdown run.
“Right away my nerves were pretty high, but it would have been worse if it was a close game,” Stanley said. “I was excited to be out there and have that opportunity.”
The RedHawk defense didn’t confuse Stanley, who praised offensive coordinator Greg Davis for the way Iowa’s quarterbacks are prepared.
“They did what we expected and we capitalized,” Stanley said.
Ten Hawkeye true freshmen saw action in the season opener. When Stanley arrived in Iowa City in June, he assumed he would redshirt the 2016 season.
“I guess the coaches thought I did well enough to play,” said Stanley, who was informed that he wrestled the backup job from junior Tyler Wiegers and redshirt freshman Drew Cook the Sunday of game week. “(The coaches) asked me what I thought about it and I said I would do whatever is best.”
Stanley was a four-year letterwinner in football at Menomonie, where he played quarterback, defensive back, and punter. As a senior he threw for 1,728 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also played basketball and baseball.
Seth Wallace was Stanley’s lead recruiter, along with Davis. Stanley, who has family in Wellsburg, Iowa, attended a quarterback camp at Iowa following his sophomore season of high school.
“I fell in love with it. That was my first exposure to the campus and team. Everything was positive from there. The school is great, it has a good PT (physical therapy) school, which is what I want to do. Both sides of my family are close to Iowa City and the coaches are genuine people who really care about us.” — UI quarterback Nathan Stanley
“I fell in love with it,” Stanley said. “That was my first exposure to the campus and team. Everything was positive from there. The school is great, it has a good PT (physical therapy) school, which is what I want to do. Both sides of my family are close to Iowa City and the coaches are genuine people who really care about us.”
Stanley is pursuing a major in health and human physiology.
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz says quarterback and both sides of the line are typically the most difficult positions for true freshmen to grasp. Stanley is the first true freshman quarterback to play in a game for the Hawkeyes since Drew Tate did it 13 seasons ago. Tate went on to throw for 8,292 yards and 61 touchdowns.
“If it turned out he was going into a game, we would probably limit what we ask him to do, but nonetheless, there are a lot of things to be mindful of and a lot of things you’re in command of,” Ferentz said. “It’s a big challenge for anybody and he has done a good job thus far.”
The academic calendar began at the University of Iowa on Aug. 22 and 13 days later, Stanley was calling plays for the No. 10-ranked Division I college football team in the nation.
“It is tough, but it takes a lot of dedication and study time,” Stanley said. “The first three weeks (of fall camp) we didn’t have class, so I spent a lot of time on (football). I feel I have quite a bit of it down; there are still little things with checks, coverages, and schemes I need to work on. But as of right now I feel I’m prepared well enough to play.”
Stanley roomed with Cook during camp and asked questions before, during, and after quarterback meetings. He also receives guidance from Beathard and Wiegers.
“Coming off the field after a play they will help me out, (asking) ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?'” Stanley said.
Stanley’s relatives have a decision to make about where to travel on game days. Nathan’s older brother, Luke, is a sophomore wide receiver for North Dakota. He caught three passes for 34 yards Sept. 1 at Stony Brook.
While Luke is catching passes, Nathan could be throwing them as Beathard’s understudy.
“During game week we made the decision we were going with Nathan as the No. 2 guy,” Ferentz said. “That is how we’ll keep it for a while. He had a good month of August with our football team.”
Iowa looks for its 14th consecutive regular season win when it hosts Iowa State in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game Sept. 10 inside Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:42 p.m. (CT); the game is sold out.