IOWA CITY — Brian Ferentz doesn’t give many interviews.
It isn’t because he’s under some gag rule from his boss, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. It’s probably more like the Patriots’ tight ends coach is only 28 and doesn’t feel he should be calling any attention to himself. Plus, he is a Ferentz, and self-promotion isn’t in the family genetics.
But as the Hawkeyes’ honorary captain Saturday for the Indiana game, Ferentz made an exception. The subject being Iowa certainly didn’t hurt.
(Brian Ferentz addresses Iowa’s team after Friday’s practice, with Kirk Ferentz listening. Hawkeyesports.com photo)
“I get to do a lot of great things, be in the big arenas,” Ferentz said before the Iowa team his father coaches defeated Indiana at Kinnick Stadium, 45-24. “But I’ll be chasing the feeling I had here the rest of my life.”
Ferentz was an offensive guard and center at Iowa from 2002 to 2005. He played on two Big Ten championship teams. When he was healthy (or even semi-healthy), he was a very good player.
“He certainly played his best in ’05,” Kirk Ferentz said, “but I think he added the most in ’04. He came back from his injury and basically played on one leg, but he gave our offensive line a little bit of confidence.”
It was more than just an injury, of course. Brian had knee surgery in February of 2004, but signs of staph infection set in on the knee and the infection grew pretty bad. Amputation of the joint seemed a distinct possibility at one point. But the darkest hour yielded to light, and Brian was Iowa’s starting right guard by the fifth game of that ’04 season.
By 2006, Brian was a practice squad player for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. When he was released by the New Orleans Saints shortly before the start of the 2007 season, he began looking for work in football. He joined Belichick’s New England operation as a scouting assistant in 2008, became a coaching assistant the following year, and has been an assistant coach since last year.
Brian spoke to Kirk’s 2011 team (whose starting center is Brian’s brother, James Ferentz) after Friday’s practice. Both said his status as an NFL assistant carried more weight with the current players than him being the coach’s son.
“My dad called me last Monday to ask me if I wanted to be honorary captain,” Brian said. “It was as unceremonious as when he offered me a scholarship.”
“I was under extreme pressure locally (to pick Brian as an honorary captain),” Kirk Ferentz joked after Saturday’s game.
There’s no kidding or public-relations facade when Brian talks about the U. of Iowa, the state of Iowa, or Iowa City. He talks about them with passion.
“I’m obviously honored and thrilled to be honorary captain,” he said. “I told the players what it meant for me to play here and why it’s special to me.”
Brian was like many former Hawkeyes who are now in the NFL. When it’s their teams’ bye week, they head for Iowa City. It was Tyler Sash this weekend, Ricky Stanzi the week before, and so on.
“For a lot of the guys, this is home,” Brian said. “Brian Waters on our team played with Casey Wiegmann with the Chiefs for a long time. Brian said every year on the bye week, Casey would get in the car and go straight to Iowa City.
“That doesn’t go on with other schools. I just think it’s special here, I can’t wait to come back and feel it again.”
His weekend was enhanced when he saw his youngest brother, Steve, catch a touchdown pass for Iowa City High Friday night against Cedar Rapids Prairie. It was Steve’s second TD of the season.
“He was the first guy in our family to ever score,” Brian said, “unless my dad did.”
“No, never,” Kirk Ferentz said with authority after Saturday’s game.
But all in all, I think you’d say he and his oldest son have done pretty well.
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