Ricky Stanzi does the public speaking thing very well. Through his play — sometimes uneven and sometimes heroic — he became the de facto spokesman for the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes.
It’s been a month since anyone heard anything from the junior quarterback. After his ankle was torn apart by a 280-pound defensive end, Stanzi was led to the locker room in the second quarter Nov. 7 against Northwestern. He showed up on the sideline a few times after that. At Ohio State, he was in a boot and on crutches. During the season finale against Minnesota, he showed up without the crutches and even threw a few passes.
When Iowa’s bid in the Orange Bowl opposite Georgia Tech (11-2) was announced, Stanzi said all systems were go for him and his surgically repaired right ankle.
“Getting back to practice was very exciting,” he said. “You take things for granted sometimes when you do it all the time. When it’s taken away from you, you realize how much you miss it and how bad you want to be out there.
“Being back out there, I was more excited than worrying about shaking off the rust. It is practice, it’s a non-pressure situation, so it’s good to come back under that. Practice has been fun for me.”
Stanzi suffered a severe high-ankle sprain when Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton spun him into the Kinnick Stadium turf. He had surgery the following Monday. The idea was to speed up the healing process and that seems to have worked.
Stanzi returned to practice Thursday.
“I’m full speed,” said Stanzi, who completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,189 yards, 15 TDs and 14 interceptions.
Stanzi, who thanked the training staff for the quick rebound, continued rehab during Thanksgiving break at the Cleveland Clinic near his home in Mentor, Ohio.
“If I didn’t have the chance to work with those guys or that surgery, I’d still be in a boot right now,” Stanzi said. “I’m thankful for that support.”
He labeled himself at “95 percent.”
“There’s a little bit I have to work out, but I’m moving faster than most would expect at this point,” Stanzi said. “They’re still keeping an eye on me, obviously, to make sure everything is done the right way.”
Stanzi didn’t have much to say about the hit that took him out. He was just out of his spin on a play-action bootleg from Iowa’s 6-yard line, Wootton fired up field and Stanzi had no time to react.
“It was just unfortunate he was there when I turned around,” Stanzi said. “I just got tangled up in a bad position. There was no way of getting out of that. I’m just fortunate that it wasn’t worse. The way it looked, it could’ve been a knee or something worse. I’m pretty fortunate to only have an ankle sprain out of it.”
Bowl officials asked about Stanzi’s condition before selection Sunday, wanting to make sure they got the “never say die, last-second heroic” Iowa offense and not the dud that muscled past Minnesota.
Stanzi is happy to be healthy and headed to Miami Beach with the Hawkeyes (10-2).
“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he was a “beach guy.”
“The beach is a great place, it doesn’t stink,” Stanzi said. “It’s better than the winter in Iowa. Nobody likes winter, especially me.”