The 2009 Hawkeyes were an intoxicating high-wire act.
No, that doesn't do it justice. The '09 Hawkeyes were the Flying Wallendas, blindfolded and drunk, in the form of a human pyramid, sprinting to the other side. While juggling chainsaws.
The entire season was football Jenga. This piece wiggled. That piece wobbled. Somehow, it all sort of stuck together.
Actually, flaming chainsaw Jenga doesn't do it justice. In game 1, the Hawkeyes needed to block back-to-back 40-yard field goals to beat FCS Northern Iowa, 17-16. If this pops up on the Big Ten Network, check the look on Kirk Ferentz's face when he realizes the officials rule exactly correctly on a rule that Ferentz probably didn't realize existed.
Game over. Bronze the season, Panthers. You got the Hawkeyes.
DE Broderick Binns got the first one. LB Jeremiha Hunter got the second. Never forget the Ricky Stanzi quote.
"I feel like that'd be hitting green on roulette two times in a row, maybe," said Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, whose 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Moeaki with 13:18 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner. "That's what I thought of right away. It's like hitting green twice in a row.
"That doesn't happen very often."
The 2009 Hawkeyes were fun. You loved them and made them your favorite Kirk Ferentz era team with 276 votes (31 percent).
Here's the poll with the results (click on the "see results," took me a minute to figure out):
Definitive win at Iowa State with SS Tyler Sash getting the hat trick three picks. . . . Just enough running back between Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. Cut and paste this sentence for the 2010. . . . Adrian Clayborn blocked punt out of "punt safe" at Penn State was maybe the play of the year. Miracle bounce. Whatever works. . . . Don't take wins over Michigan for granted. . . . The Wisconsin win came out of nowhere. After that, the believe-o-meter shot through the roof. . . . Stanzi, McNutt, 7 yards, no time left on the clock. . . . The Sash pick six against Indiana is the play of the season II. Way underrated. . . . James Vandenberg's performance at Ohio State left you wanting more. . . . You can argue that the Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech was Iowa's best bowl victory since the '59 Rose Bowl.
Stanzi's S-curve ankle against Northwestern looked disgusting. Tough kid. . . . In the wake of the Ohio State scandal, the result at Columbus in 2009 probably doesn't make you feel any better. Great game. DJK's kick return was lightning. First one in 242 kick returns. It gave the Hawkeyes hope just when the lights started to flicker. . . . The 2009 Hawkeyes didn't have a major off-field thing. The '10 Hawkeyes were born under off-field distractions.
What you think
@asya619 #favoriteFerentzteam I lean towards 2009. Not necessarily the best, but crazy games. Heart attack Hawks, for sure. #2-2002
@dthrash84 2004 or 2009, lotsa close games in 09, ended with BCS Bowl win.
@HawkeyeNation That's hard to pick a Fav Ferentz era team. Probly 2009 due to so many amazing moments..#favoriteferentzteam
@duhwolf 2009 #FF so many great games, UNI, PSU, MSU, the 4th qrt in the IU, still think we go 12-0 if stanzi doesnt go down #GoHawks
@ManonMB This is haaaaaaaard.
@chia8223 09 team my personal favorite due to the nail biters!!!!
@_starfish3 2009 Hawkeyes, 2009 USA soccer. great year for me
Sam Paxton, inventor of Spam and Gazette copyeditor: It’s not often that the Hawks are in the national title conversation in Week 10. A special team, a BCS victory, a classic game and finish (MSU) and even the SI jinx make this team one for the ages.
-- Running back Adam Robinson's 834 yards is the freshman record at Iowa. Brandon Wegher's 641 is No. 3 on that list. Yes, they are no more at Iowa, but take heart. Marcus Coker is fourth with 622 yards. And he's back for 2011.
-- The back-to-back blocked FGs against Northern Iowa was a first in the history of Division I football.
-- Iowa won four games by three or fewer points for the first time ever while starting a best ever 9-0.
BIG BODY OF WORK
Late bloomer Clayborn grows into dominant leader
Adrian Clayborn is 100 percent football player. The monstrous defensive end has everything top-flight players need. He's big, fast and aggressive. At 6-3, 283 pounds, and with that body, he is beginning to look very, very NFL.
He's got the body and the mind.
"He's our undisputed leader," fellow Iowa D-lineman Christian Ballard said. "We all rally around him. He's the general for the D-line. We look for him to pick us up. We look for him to get us up when we're down in the dumps. This guy, he's a great player and a good friend, too."
He's got the body and the mind. Mostly, he's got that body.
Roll the highlights. The blocked punt at Penn State, bullrushing a blocker and then picking the ball up and sprinting 53 yards to give No. 8 Iowa (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) the lead. The two sacks at Michigan State, one in which he arrived at the quarterback so quickly that he just kind of chest-bumped him to the ground. During the victory over Northern Iowa, Clayborn dropped into coverage and ran step-for-step with a tight end.
You keep coming back to that body. It's a body that started larger than life and a little bit damaged.
On July 8, 1988, Tracie Clayborn delivered an 11-pound, 3-ounce baby boy.
"He was just a monster," she said. "He was a big baby. It was like he was six months old at birth. No newborn clothes for him."
The body was big at birth. Maybe too big.
Clayborn suffered from Erb's Palsy (also called or brachial palsy). His head and neck were pulled to the side as his shoulders passed through the birth canal. He suffered some nerve damage in his neck and right side, losing some movement and causing some weakness in his right arm.
Full recoveries are expected in most cases. The palsy may continue in some. If some strength hasn't returned to the affected muscles by three to six months, surgery on the nerves may be needed.
This sent the Clayborns -- Tracie and Adrian's father, Ricky -- on a medical journey.
It was decided early on that as long as he was diligent with his therapy he could avoid surgery.
"It was kind of scary and it was crazy," Tracie said. "I had never heard of it until it happened to Adrian."
Sports weren't off limits for Adrian. He was able to play baseball and basketball, but, yeah, he was totally into football. His big brother, James, was a rocket-armed 240-pound quarterback for Webster Groves High School. His sister, Crystal, was a cheerleader at the high school. He never had a choice.
Of course, Adrian looked up to his big brother. He hung around the Webster Groves team and served as ball boy. But no, mom wouldn't sign off on youth football.
His nerves made everyone nervous.
Finally, in seventh grade, mom said yes.
"He lit up," Tracie said with a laugh. "He kind of knew what was going on with football, so when he started playing he already knew the basics. It was easy for him to catch on."
Webster Groves varsity coach Cliff Ice noticed the little brother in seventh grade.
"We'd look at Adrian in the junior high program and thought, 'Good Lord, if that kid progresses ...'" Ice said. "You always talk about kids getting better just by age and the natural process. When he was in eighth grade and ninth grade, we thought, 'If that kid just develops like a regular kid, how good is he going to be?'"
Now it's scrapbook time for Tracie Clayborn. Adrian is filling pages by the minute this season, leading the No. 8 Hawkeyes with 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
She ran across a letter she received from doctors when Adrian was in high school. It didn't recommend contact sports.
"I was sitting at the table and it kind of brought tears to my eyes," Tracie said. "Just reading it and thinking about where he started and where he is now. It's just amazing. They just kept saying he couldn't play. I guess he proved them wrong."
Look at that body, what do you see?
Mom sees it. She knows the story behind the funny angle. She also sees the beard Adrian's been growing for a year. That's what catches her attention.
"I told him he looks like Santa Claus."
And the dreadlocks. Mom notices those, too.
"I asked him, 'Why don't you just cut them off?'" Tracie said. "He said, 'No, my head's too big.' I said, 'OK, you've got a point.'"
Hey, 11 pounds, 3 ounces. She's allowed to make that joke.
'Wild, kicking' entry catapults Angerer to glory days at LB
BETTENDORF -- A pair of black sweat socks went flying out the window at a busy intersection in Bettendorf.
This is the true story of four friends ... who bowl together ... and have their bowling observed by a reporter ... to find out what happens when the bowling stops being polite ... and starts getting real.
Three blocks from Miller Time Bowling, it's too real for Tom Langford. His socks ended up in the ditch.
"Take one of my socks," Pat Angerer said. "Put it on your lead foot. It's better than nothing."
Four high school friends proceed to bowl away a lazy summer Sunday. Why bowling?
"It keeps us out of trouble," Angerer said.
These are four young men staring adulthood in the face. Langford, 23, is helping out coaching the Minnesota State linebackers after missing out on a bid for a sixth year of eligibility. John Davis, 22, is in the Army and working toward special forces. Greg Reckman, 22, is a criminal justice major at Iowa State.
You know Angerer, 22. He's the Iowa Hawkeyes' all-Big Ten middle linebacker. At Miller Time Bowling, he's somewhat recognizable in a Bettendorf T-shirt.
In the lane to the left, a kids' birthday party sings and bowls. To the right, some very good bowlers spin strikes. The Angerer crew makes noise. There's the "psych outs," some slapping and a few downright heckles.
"Greg, you're scaring the kids," Angerer says just above the din of the pins.
Back at home
This is in direct contrast to the foursome's behavior at the Angerer residence, a cozy home on a nice, quiet street in Bettendorf.
Cliff Angerer answers the door. He's about 5-foot-6, bald with a gray beard and a block "I" tattoo with a Herky logo on one forearm. Mary Angerer welcomes the boys into the kitchen, where they sit and talk while Pat conducts an interview in the family room.
The walls are covered with family photos. Mary had four children -- Johnny, Nate, Chris and Meagan -- with her first husband before he died. Their last names are Willey and they're older than Pat. That didn't stop the rough play. Once, when Chris was training for mixed martial arts, he whupped up on Pat ... in the backyard ... on a trampoline.
"He probably put me in every submission they have," Angerer laughed. "We'd get DVDs from Family Video and go in the backyard and practice on a trampoline."
Chris is 6-foot-8 and six years older than Pat.
"Yeah," Pat laughs. "Like that made it any safer."
Pat is the youngest of Mary Angerer's five children.
Pat, you see, is the miracle baby. (Future "psych out" material for the bowling league, right there.)
"I met Cliff and we had a little miracle and that was Patrick," Mary said. "We thought we were finished. And I remember the day we found out we were going to have a boy."
Cliff had been to an Iowa basketball game with a friend. He got home and they all thought, "it'd be so neat to have a kid who would play football for Iowa."
"And then we got the call," Mary said. "At the time, I was 39 and they (doctors) were checking to make sure everything was OK. I had a test in Iowa City. They called and said it was a boy."
This is Cliff's retirement. He worked 38 years at Alcoa. Now, with a part-time job cutting fairways at Glynns Creek, his job is to follow his Iowa football playing son.
"It feels, it feels ..." said Cliff, whose license plates read "PA43LB." "Well, a proud dad, you might as well put it. That's probably every dad's dream, especially if you live in Iowa. I've been a Hawkeye fan all my life. Dreamed of having a son play. It's amazing."
It started with "they called and said it was a boy."
"You knew he'd be something crazy because he was wild and kicking all the way," Mary Angerer said.
"Something crazy" is a personality fans gravitate to.
Turning it around
After compiling just one tackle his sophomore year, Angerer pulled himself back from the brink of depth chart anonymity. His rotten sophomore year has been well chronicled. He lost 20-something pounds during a summer bout with mononucleosis and never found his physical stride.
That was the year his good friend, Hawkeye teammate and roommate Alex Kanellis, had to retire because of concussions. This was coming off a scary freshman year when Mary Angerer beat back colon cancer. ("You were just praying, but she's a bad ass," Angerer said.)
"That year was (bleepy), but I definitely needed it," said Angerer, who led the Hawkeyes with 107 tackles and five interceptions last season. "It put a lot of things into perspective. I don't take things for granted. It was definitely a blessing. God puts brick walls in front of you not to stop you, but for you to prove how much you want them."
As a freshman, Angerer played in every game. Maybe that caught up to him. Remember, it's fun to be a football player off the field, too.
"Pat would be the first guy to tell you this, but he was the guy having the most fun downtown," fellow linebacker A.J. Edds said. "He finally figured out if he wanted to be a key guy on the team, on the field, he had to make some decisions on what was important to him."
A dedicated Angerer showed up last fall.
"I said to myself, everything football," he said. "Eating, sleeping and everything. I was kind of a loser, but it's worth it.
"Coaches are investing a lot into us. They're paying for our school. They're giving us all kinds of money to live and pay rent, The least we can do is live right. We owe that to them."
Angerer is living so "right" now that he's sleeping in one of those high-altitude tents that pump oxygen into your body to aid healing. It was a $2,200 investment, but he says it's worth it.
Last fall, the invested Angerer shared the No. 1 middle linebacker spot with Jacody Coleman. Angerer took the job after Pitt.
A man crush and tats
That's when the "Chuck Norris-fixation" of Angerer started on the Internet and in the media.
Do you feel the Chuck Norris thing from fans? "Yeah, overrated," Angerer laughed.
The man crush thing probably has something to do with the tattoos. Angerer has them all over. It started with his brother Chris tattooing wings under both arms. Chris bought the tattoo gun and those were his first.
The latest is an American flag waving in the wind with "Pledge of Allegiance" written above it. It took three sittings at Rock Island's Sleeve Weasels.
Angerer isn't into any real deep meaning with his body art -- "I think people try to justify why they want to get them, but when it boils down to it, I think they just want to get one." But his brother Nate served in the Marines and did a tour in Somalia, just before the "Black Hawk Down" period.
Angerer holds love of country close.
"I'm very thankful and blessed to live in this country," he said. "The men and women who fight for our freedom ... it's unbelievable. How can you not love and respect that?"
The other part of the Norris-fication is the MMA thing with Angerer.
The Quad Cities is an epicenter of MMA-ness. Pulling into the parking lot of Miller Time Bowling, there's a car touting an MMA club. The photographer for this piece, Louis Brems, is from the Quad Cities. He and Angerer talked it up, "I don't want Fedor to be out of his time by the time they fight."
Angerer has always been a fan of the sport. He wrestled (and played soccer) at Bettendorf High School. You can tell the idea piques his interest, but push comes to shove, he knows it would take an entirely different kind of training than football.
"I know to get good at that you have to absolutely master it. That takes a ton of time," said Angerer, a 6-1, 235-pounder. "Right now, I don't know if I could last five seconds with any of those guys. I'd maybe do it as a training thing.
"Those guys are the greatest athletes on the planet. I don't think I compare to any of those guys. They're studs."
He wants to give the NFL his best shot, but that's not even in the back of his mind. Iowa football is everything. The schedule -- with road games at Penn State and Ohio State -- is tough, but Angerer calls it "opportunity."
And then he turns down the volume on any talk of individuality or hype.
"I've got to work my ass off this year. I haven't done anything," Angerer said. "There are a ton of linebackers who've played at Iowa who've done a lot more than I have. I'm not a big deal. I have a ton of things to fix and I'm not looking much beyond that."
The tattooed, Chuck Norris, MMA and middle linebacker guy is actually very quiet and humble. He's dated the same woman (Mary Porter) since his sophomore year in high school.
He loves God, family and country. He holds his friends close.
Kind of close.
He got off the couch and walked toward the kitchen. He motioned to the table where Tom, Greg and John sat.
"Don't talk to them," he said. "They're (bleeps)."
The kitchen erupted in laughter. And then it was time to bowl.