IOWA CITY — Shaun Prater’s meeting with the media on Wednesday seemed somewhat cathartic.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior sat out of Iowa football’s winter workouts for 40 or 50 days while he recovered rhabdomyolysis, a kidney ailment that was the result of a lower-body workout at the end of January. He has participated in the Hawkeyes spring practices, which began a week ago.
Wednesday, he talked extensively about his experience. He holds no animosity toward the University of Iowa or strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He trusts Doyle, who’s been Iowa’s strength coach for all of Kirk Ferentz’s 12-plus seasons as head coach.
“We have a very comfortable relationship,” Prater said of Doyle. “He knows that I’m not blaming him for anything. It was a rare thing that happened. I look up to coach Doyle. He’s someone I can trust and go to for advice.”
Prater, who considered leaving Iowa early for the NFL draft, has had no hesitation jumping back into Iowa’s weightroom and resuming workouts.
“Everyone listening to this story from the outside in, it sounds like a big deal, 13 players in the hospital from a serious workout, it seems like the strength coach is trying to kill the players,” Prater said. “It wasn’t anything like that.
“It’s a drill where players are trying to be competitive and break that mark. We had some soreness and ended up in the hospital.”
The workout, which included timed squats with a certain percentage of the player’s max lift, will be discontinued, according to the findings of a UI investigation released last week. No negligence was found on the behalf of Iowa’s strength staff. No supplements were determined to trigger the disease in the players. It was just the strenuous nature of the workout, according to the findings of the investigation.
Prater said he knew one player completed the timed squats in eight minutes. So, he wanted to meet or beat that mark.
“Possibly, we all took it too far,” Prater said. ”Maybe we had too much weight. I’m not sure what it was. Obviously, the doctors and the trained investigators said it wasn’t the weight and it wasn’t the players’ fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
Four seniors were made available to media Wednesday. Prater was the only rhabdo case among the eight known athletes who were stricken. He knew Wednesday it was going to be topic No. 1 for him.
“It’s good to talk about it, so this can be the end of it,” said Prater, a first-team all-Big Ten cornerback last season with four interceptions. “It’s good to answer all these questions and hopefully we can move from it.”
On his Twitter account, Prater’s brother, Nate, a former defensive back for Kansas State, had some harsh criticism for Iowa. When asked about that Wednesday, Shaun Prater said his brother wrote those tweets before he had a chance to talk to Shaun.
“He was hearing all this information from the news, talk from my mom,” Shaun Prater said. “When I was in the hospital, so many people were calling me I just turned off my phone. I never got a chance to call him and tell him what’s going on. He fully understood the situation.”
Ferentz weathered a storm of national criticism on his whereabouts during the early days of the rhabdo outbreak. Prater didn’t have a problem with Ferentz’s absence.
“From my experience, I was told he was on the road visiting some recruits,” the Omaha, Neb., native said. “That was a part of business and it was something he had to take care of. It was fine. It was something he had to take care of. He came back as soon as he possibly could.”
Prater knew he had rhabdo first because of soreness and then the color of his urine. That is maybe the signature symptom of the syndrome.
“It went from a real dark brown to a dark orange, so that was the first red flag,” he said. But even then, when Prater went to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, he thought it’d be a quick out.
“It was a big shock that I was in there,” Prater said. “I thought I’d go in and get my blood drawn and be out in a couple minutes. My teammates came up, so did my coaches. My mom stayed the whole week. I feel pretty comfortable and it’s something I can learn from.”
Prater found himself in the hospital maybe a week or two after he made his decision to return to the UI for his senior season. At the Insight Bowl, Prater revealed that he submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board. Prater said the evaluation didn’t have him going in the first three rounds, but more likely during the second day of the draft.
“There were a lot of people telling me I had to get better at a lot of things and gain some more weight,” Prater said. “I have to get better in my tackling, in my ball skills.
“Coming back for my senior year, I can be a leader for my team, hopefully get our team to the national championship, which is my major goal, and correct all the things that the doubters say that I have.”
It was an uncomfortable 40 or 50 days of rhabdo rest for Prater, a workout hound. He spent Christmas break lifting and playing pickup basketball at his alma mater, Omaha Central High School, so he wasn’t out of shape going into that first winter workout.
“I was just sitting around watching TV, being a normal student,” Prater said. “It just felt weird, going to class and coming back home and not working out and getting plenty of rest. Honestly, it made me hungry to be back for spring ball and be back with my teammates.”
Prater dressed in a white No. 28 jersey and lined up at left cornerback Wednesday. No hesitations here.