Jan. 23, 2010
EDITOR'S NOTE:The following first appeared in the Jan. 21 edition of the University of Iowa's Official Sports Report, a free daily e-newsletter. For more information about the UI's OSR, click HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kirk Ferentz knows about life in the National Football League. He also knows about life in general. That's why he picked up the phone Sunday and dialed his former All-American kicker, Nate Kaeding.
Moments before the call, Kaeding, an all-pro for the San Diego Chargers, had just left the Qualcomm Stadium turf following a 17-14 AFC playoff loss to the New York Jets. Kaeding, the most accurate regular-season kicker in NFL history and maker of an NFL-record 69 straight field goals inside 40 yards, missed a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter, a 57-yarder to end the first half and a 40-yarder with 4:38 remaining.
"It was just a tough, tough day for him," said Ferentz, head football coach at the University of Iowa. "But if I'm starting an NFL team, I'm not sure he wouldn't be the first guy I would pick. What a great person, great player. Better days await him, there's no question about that. Nate's one of the best players-slash-people that we've had come through here. I don't know if we've had a better player at his position than Nate. He was a tremendous leader for us, he's very, very involved in this community.
"I can't say enough about him -- he's a consummate professional. It's part of sports, part of life. You take the highs and the lows. Those lows aren't very fun, but I don't think there's anybody better equipped to handle those lows than Nate."
"If you play this game and can only accept it when it goes well, you're in the wrong business, especially in my position," Kaeding told the San Diego Union Tribune.
"You're going to miss some, unfortunately. Some days like this will come. Professionally, it's a tough thing to get through. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my teammates, coaches and support staff here. I feel like I let everybody down. It's going to be a tough few months, but if you relish the good part, you have to work through the bad as well. It'll be tough. I'll let this rest, then pick up the pieces."
In the visitor's locker room Sunday was rookie running back Shonn Greene of the Jets. Greene essentially sealed the win for New York with a 53-yard touchdown run with 7:17 left in the game. He finished with 128 yards on 23 carries.
Ferentz said that watching former players like Kaeding and Greene makes the playoffs more interesting.
"I don't have a particular horse in the race," Ferentz said. "I follow our players and by my count, we had 11 involved this past weekend, including guys like Matt Kroul on the (Jets) practice squad. We had a couple coaches, too. You look at Jim Caldwell (head coach, Indianapolis Colts), Tom Moore (senior offensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts), Mike Devlin (tight ends and assistant offensive line coach, New York Jets)...guys that played here that are coaching. There's an Iowa flavor to that."
It's not just Ferentz and his current players watching former Hawkeyes compete in the NFL. The professionals are keeping tabs on the happenings in Iowa City as well. That's something the head Hawkeye calls mutual admiration.
"I don't know how many texts I had after the (24-14 win in the FedEx Orange Bowl) in Miami," Ferentz said. "Shonn was one of the first guys on the list. That makes you feel good that he's still watching and certainly we're all proud of him. (All-Pro tight end) Dallas (Clark) has had a great year; you go right down the list. We've had a lot of guys make key contributions to their teams and I think all of us take some pride in that. The neatest thing about it is they all remain interested in our program and they follow our team, too."