By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Austin Schulte is like the rest of his University of Iowa football teammates.
In these trying times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Schulte and the Hawkeyes have their sights set on a successful 2020 college football season by staying ready so they don’t have to get ready when the green light officially flashes.
“I’m excited to get back, whenever that is,” said Schulte, a senior defensive lineman from Pella, Iowa. “The strength coaches and position coaches have been harping on staying ready so you don’t have to get ready when we all come back. You miss being around the guys and being in that environment of competitiveness. It’s hard to have that when you’re by yourself.”
The 6-foot-4, 278-pound Schulte has been social distancing at home in Pella. Before he could begin workouts, Schulte built a weight bench and squat rack out of 2x4s, then added a pullup bar in his garage. Iowa’s strength and conditioning staff loaned a barbell and 45-pound plates.
When it is time for mano-a-mano drills or for work on stances and starts, he relies on assistance from a younger brother, who will be a sophomore at Pella High School.
a sophomore at Pella High School.
“I enjoy this time with my family and being able to connect with them,” Schulte said. “I’m trying to teach (my younger brother) everything I know. It’s a little different going against your brother who weighs190 pounds versus (former Hawkeye teammates) Tristan Wirfs (322 pounds) and AJ (320-pound Alaric Jackson) last year. But it has been good to connect with family and be around him and teach him what I can.”
Last season Schulte made 12 tackles with a tackle for loss and quarterback hurry and No. 16 Iowa finished 10-3 after a 49-24 win over Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The Hawkeyes had the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation (allowing 14 points per game) and were 12th in total defense (308.2 yards per game).
Iowa will replace three starters on the defensive line with A.J. Epenesa and Cedrick Lattimore now on NFL rosters and the graduation of Brady Reiff. Schulte is doing his best to be in the regular rotation. After the 2019 season, Schulte was one of two Hawkeyes named Comeback Player of the Year.
“Everyone hopes to be a starter,” Schulte said. “I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can. If that’s a starting role, then so be it. I need to be ready to play my best football when that time comes.”
A mechanical engineering major, Schulte has enjoyed his return to Pella, but he is eager to get back on campus and resume football.
“Everyone hopes to be a starter. I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can. If that’s a starting role, then so be it. I need to be ready to play my best football when that time comes.”UI senior defensive lineman Austin Schulte
“The thing I miss most is being with the guys and that competitive atmosphere,” Schulte said. “It has been a challenge, but I know that when we get back together it will make me appreciate the time that I have.”
On May 22, the University of Iowa announced a pilot program involving Research and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to test health and safety protocols in a phased return to campus. Football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball have been approved by the NCAA to return to voluntary activity beginning June 1.
“I know that probably won’t look the same as it has in years past,” Schulte said. “But I’m going to be ready and make sure my teammates are ready.”