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Wine Online: A Native Son at the Trigger
Vandenberg joins elite group of Iowans as UI's quarterback
Barring the unexpected, junior James Vandenberg will be the first native Iowan to start the season at quarterback in 10 years.
Barring the unexpected, junior James Vandenberg will be the first native Iowan to start the season at quarterback in 10 years.
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Aug. 10, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Some Hawkeye football fans were recently punching the bag, talking about quarterbacks. They wondered when Iowa last had a No. 1 quarterback who was a native Iowan, and how many Iowans have become good Iowa quarterbacks.

The questions were triggered by the Hawkeye depth chart, which shows James Vandenberg as the top QB. The junior from Keokuk has a firm grip on the No. 1 spot. Coach Kirk Ferentz said so during spring practice, and he repeated it again when fall drills opened in early August.


Ferentz and his staff have been high on Vandenberg since he joined the Hawkeyes in 2008. But you can only play one quarterback at a time, and Ricky Stanzi had the job the last three seasons as Iowa won 28 games, including three bowl victories.

After a redshirt year, Vandenberg backed up Stanzi for two seasons and didn't see much action, although he started twice in 2009 when Stanzi was sidelined with an ankle injury. The first start was an overtime loss at Ohio State, the second a victory at home against Minnesota. Stanzi has moved on to play with the Kansas City Chiefs and Vandenberg is now the main man in Iowa's offense.

Barring the unexpected, Vandenberg will be the first native Iowan to start the season at quarterback in 10 years. The last was Kyle McCann of Creston, who led the Hawkeyes to victory in the 2001 Alamo Bowl, the first post-season appearance for Kirk Ferentz as a head coach.

Vandenberg hopes to join other native sons who have been successful quarterbacks at Iowa. Two of the best played more than 50 years ago. Kenny Ploen of Clinton led Iowa to a 1956 Big Ten championship and a decisive Rose Bowl victory. Two years later Randy Duncan of Des Moines duplicated that feat. Both were first-team All-Americans.





Vandenberg hopes to join other native sons who have been successful quarterbacks at Iowa. Two of the best played more than 50 years ago. Kenny Ploen of Clinton led Iowa to a 1956 Big Ten championship and a decisive Rose Bowl victory. Two years later Randy Duncan of Des Moines duplicated that feat. Both were first-team All-Americans.


In the past 30 years Iowa has played in 25 bowl games. Matt Sherman of St. Ansgar was the quarterback in three of those. He led the Hawkeyes to victory in the 1995 Sun Bowl and the 1996 Alamo Bowl, before losing the 1997 Sun Bowl. Paul Burmeister of Iowa City was the quarterback in a 1993 Alamo Bowl defeat.

Native-son quarterbacks who passed for more than 1, 500 career yards but never made it to a bowl game are Gary Snook of Iowa City (1963-65), Ed Podolak of Atlantic (1966-68), Phil Suess of Des Moines (1977-80), Randy Reiners of Ft. Dodge (l996-99), Tom McLaughlin of Dubuque (1975-77), Al DiMarco of Mason City (1947-48) and Glen Drahn of Elkader (1948-50).

Iowa has had some good home-grown talent at quarterback, and James Vandenberg hopes to become a member of this group. He has the size and skills to run Iowa's pro-style offense. He is a mature 21-year-old fourth-year college student. An excellent student, he has twice been Academic all-Big Ten. He has been a member of Iowa's Leadership Group since he arrived on campus. He's been a Hawkeye for three years and knows the system. His coaches and teammates believe in him.

For the first time in three years Iowa has a new quarterback, and for the first time in 10 years he is an Iowan. Is Vandenberg up to the challenge? Will he meet the test? His coaches believe he will, and that's good enough for me.

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