By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Joe Pawlak finished his football playing career at Northern Illinois University, but it didn’t take long for him to return to the game, trading in his black and red for black and gold in his first year as a graduate assistant on the Iowa coaching staff.
Pawlak enjoyed a successful stint as a tight end for the Huskies. Pawlak earned all-conference honors in 2010 and helped the NIU offense break 12 single-season records in 2011. The team went on to win their second straight bowl game and complete back-to-back 11 win seasons.
After spending two years at NIU as a graduate assistant, Pawlak was looking elsewhere.
“It was getting toward the end of football season and I was looking to continue my coaching career,” Pawlak said. “I wrote a handwritten letter to coach Ferentz. He said they did not have any openings, but he kept my letter in hand.”
It wasn’t until June that next year that Ferentz reached back out to the former All-conference tight end.
“He said they have an opening and asked if I was still interested to work as a graduate assistant with the offense,” Pawlak said. “I said ‘yes, of course’ and it’s been awesome to come from Northern Illinois to Iowa. It was different but still a lot of fun.”
Before he came to Iowa, Pawlak gained experience working with a variety of different sports as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at NIU.
“I coached women’s soccer, women’s and men’s tennis, and I helped out with the football program,” Pawlak said. “It was really cool to start with all these sports and then I learned to develop my coaching philosophy.”
“At first I thought that working with a sport like women’s soccer was going to be very different, but it was almost the same as football,” Pawlak said. “They came to work every day and wanted to be coached.”
At Iowa, Pawlak works with the offensive line and Tim Polasek as well as the scout team.
“I work with coach Polasek and worked with Brian Ferentz before him,” Pawlak said. “During game days, I break down the defensive front, watch the offensive line, answer questions for coach, and provide assistance when I can.”
Pawlak has found a home, for now, and it’s on the offensive line. Looking at the future, Pawlak wants to stay in the trenches.
“My next step is to continue to coach the offensive line regardless of where it is at,” he said. “I would love the opportunity to coach the offensive line someday.”
Iowa caps its regular season at Nebraska this Friday at 3:05 p.m. (CT) in a battle for the Heroes Trophy as Iowa looks to go 3-for-4 in trophy games in 2017. Live stats are available on hawkeyesports.com. The game will be televised on FS1.
By JACK ROSSI