Aug. 24, 2011
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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa offensive lineman Austin Blythe had plenty to mull over as a senior at Williamsburg (Iowa) High School and during his first days as a Hawkeye:
All-state football vs. state champion wrestler?
Follow a family tradition or blaze a path less-traveled?
Blythe, a four-time state wrestling finalist and three-time state champion with 187 career wins, originally thought his athletic career would continue on a mat, not on the turf.
"Before I even got looked at for football, I thought I was going to wrestle in college," Blythe said. "But once this opportunity came, it kind of shifted focus a little bit and I thought, `hey, I can play Division I football.' That's what I chose to do."
The Blythe family has a lengthy and successful relationship at Central College in Pella, Iowa. His father and two older brothers were members of the Dutch football program, but playing Division I at the UI was like a fulfilled dream for Austin.
"The opportunity to play at a school like the University of Iowa was something I couldn't pass up," Blythe said. "This is too good of an opportunity."
"It's attractive and with the help of (offensive line) coach (Reese) Morgan and (head) coach (Kirk) Ferentz and the strength staff and the rest of the coaches, (a future in the NFL) is an opportunity for everybody if they come to the University of Iowa."
UI freshman O-lineman
After his final season of high school football, Blythe was named elite all-state on defense by the Des Moines Register and captain of the Class 3A Iowa Newspaper Association all-state team as an offensive lineman. The Hawkeyes have had seven offensive linemen taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, including Robert Gallery with the second pick in 2004 and Bryan Bulaga with the 23rd pick in 2010. Bulaga started as a rookie for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
"It's attractive and with the help of (offensive line) coach (Reese) Morgan and (head) coach (Kirk) Ferentz and the strength staff and the rest of the coaches, (a future in the NFL) is an opportunity for everybody if they come to the University of Iowa," Blythe said.
There are 11 Hawkeye football student-athletes on the 2011 roster from City, Solon, West, Regina, Mid-Prairie and Williamsburg -- schools within a 30-mile radius of Kinnick Stadium. Not only is Blythe close to family and friends, but that number of locals speaks volumes about the quality of football being played in Eastern Iowa.
"I know they didn't come here and show up and be good," Blythe said of his area teammates. "You have to put work into it and that's what I'm planning on doing."
Blythe is content to stay at 290 pounds while learning the techniques and fundamentals of a Hawkeye offensive guard or center.
"I would like to stay around 290 and keep lifting and turn some of the fat I have into muscle," Blythe said.
A soft-spoken gentle giant off the field, Blythe knows how to shift to a game face.
"It takes a lot of practice and experience knowing how it feels to get into that nasty mode," Blythe said. "You have to switch gears."
Blythe is pursuing a degree in industrial engineering -- an ambitious academic workload, but a line of study that has long interested him.
The Hawkeyes will participate in their 21st practice of the preseason this afternoon.