When Brian Ferentz played at Iowa, he was first-team all-Big Ten interview team. He would give context, example and thought to questions (if they were worth a darn). He also gave an occasional opinion and, sometimes, in a pointed manner.
That will be an interesting dynamic on Iowa’s staff, especially given Brian’s resume.
The new coaching staff is a monster topic for Iowa ’12. No one on defense is coaching the same position. Kirk Ferentz is working with two new coordinators, including Greg Davis, who comes from Texas, the land of giants who run fast.
We also get into retirement, nepotism and keeping in shape in this chapter. How did we get on that? I asked about Big Ten titles and feeling the pressure to work in that direction
Kirk Ferentz doesn’t jog anymore, but he certainly hasn’t stopped chasing the Big Ten blue bloods.
[This is part III of a 40-minute interview with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, covering mostly family topics past and present. Check the bottom of the post for video from Gazette photographer Brian Ray.]
CRG: Brian has strong opinions. He had them when we interviewed him way back when . . . Well, it wasn’t that long ago, I guess.
KF: It’s been awhile.
CRG: When Brian and Greg Davis [Iowa's first-year offensive coordinator] came in, you guys constructed the offense all over again. People don’t realize, you were meeting, and I imagine, taking a lot of ideas in and throwing some out. Seeing what worked or could work. I imagine Brian, having a strong personality and the resume probably had quite a few ideas.
KF: Absolutely, that’s one of the reasons I hired him. He is my kid, so I think I know what I’m getting that way. I have more history with him than most people. Well beyond that, he played for a good coach here in Reese. He was schooled well there. Beyond that, he played in Atlanta’s system, which was Alex Gibbs’ run game [Gibbs is considered the father of zone blocking]. Then, he went to the best grad school in the world, if you’re a football guy. I know that firsthand. I know where he’s been, I know the people he’s been exposed to. Billy O’Brien [first-year Penn State head coach] is part of that package. The last two years, he was so helpful to Brian and so willing to answer questions. Brian is inquisitive and he isn’t bashful. He was really lucky to be with Billy, who was really open to that. Bill [Belichick] had a lot of assignments for him and that was helpful to his development. Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best line coaches in the National Football League and a great teacher. I’ve listened to him teach and sat in his meetings. I know the environment he’s coming out of.
He, LeVar [Woods, Iowa's first-year linebackers coach] and Greg, I wanted guys who brought fresh ideas. It wasn’t planned, but it worked out that we had three vacancies. It was a great opportunity to get different people in with different vantage points and opinions.
LeVar and Brian give us a younger flavor, if you will, on the staff, certainly. They also have a strong loyalty to the program. It’s not a requisite to be a former player, but if you’ve been here in that role, typically, those guys have a very strong bond to the program.
My biggest fear with Greg, quite frankly, was that he’s coming out of a program where their guys don’t look like our guys. Their hundred guys don’t look like our hundred guys. That’s the way it is. His expertise is outstanding, but beyond that, he’s really brought some other things to our program that have been very helpful and beneficial.
CRG: Like . . .
KF: Different thoughts on recruiting. A lot of different things without going into too much detail, a lot of different things that will help our program and make us a better program. That’s what I’m hoping for with any guy. We’re looking for new ideas at all times. And if it’s not a fit [the idea], it’s my job to decide what fits and what doesn’t. I want thoughts from everybody, including guys here who’ve been on the staff for 12 years or 13 years. Everybody is allowed an opinion.
CRG: So, you’ve got nine or so years on the contract, you’d be 66 . . . I think.
KF: It’s ’20? I was born in ’55, so what does that leave us? Is it 65? Technically, I’d be 64. It’s before my birthday.
CRG: Is this the type of thing that gets you, personally, energized, having family around like this? Granted, it’s three boys this year, probably two next year. Do you draw energy from this?
KF: I thoroughly enjoyed when Brian entered our program. I had no idea how that was going to work out, but I thoroughly enjoyed every day of those five years, the ups and the downs.
It’s like Mary explains to them, the downsides and the upsides of everything. For the times I’ve missed as a dad, at least you made up for it a little bit. Even if it was just walking by his locker, he might be standing there and I’d say hello or we’d have a conversation. If he were at another school, we would’ve missed that. I wish I could’ve done something like that with my daughters [Kelly and Joanne], too. That would’ve been great. It’s not quite as realistic. That’s a good thing.
I think this is going to be neat. The nepotism thing, which I know . . . It’s funny, no one ever asked me my opinion. My answer is going to be really simple. Anyone ever hear of the Brands? They’re brothers, right? I assume that’s the same category. Seems to work.
CRG: Those are high profile. People don’t realize at the university, nurse marries doctor, X-ray technician marries pharmacist . . .
KF: I get it and I understand it. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in other professions, to see sons and fathers working together, it’s a
neat thing. In some cases their daughters, too. It’s possible.
CRG: Do you have an end in sight? Do you even think about that at this point?
KF: Yes and no. Very sparingly. The only conclusion I can come up with is that I don’t know what else I would do. I don’t know what I’d do beyond coaching. I don’t know. There are things I guess I could do to stay busy. I know I want to stay active. I’m not sure retirement is a good thing, quite frankly. I mean pure retirement, 100 percent retirment. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.
CRG: I know there have been studies with goals and retirement. Once goals go away, you fade away.
KF: I can think of a lot of examples of that. Unless you have these hobbies that you’re so entrenched in, which, unfortunately, I don’t. There are a million books. a) I wish I could read faster and b) I wish had time to sit down and read. I’d love to take a sabbatical, but I don’t know how successful it would be.
CRG: Maybe if you’re a professor of football?
KF: Not much of a market for those.
CRG: You’ve won two Big Ten titles here. Now, you have your son, Greg Davis, two new coordinators. Do you have to show it works again? Do you feel that?
KF: I feel that every year. That’s our job. We’re trying to do the best we can. I say it on the banquet circuit all the time. Realistically, since 2001 on, we’ve felt like we’ve had a chance each and every year. Each year has its own set of challenges and circumstances. Some you know, some you discover as you go along. That’s been the goal every year.
We certainly have an opportunity this year. It’s unique . . . again. There are a lot of exciting things going on outside of that.
I look at the staff change as inevitable. Things are going to happen in life. Not everything is going to stay the same forever. We’re 14 years into it now, which is rare and uncommon. Obviously, there are going to be some things changing. It presented an opportunity for us.
I wish Norm could’ve coached forever [Parker, D-coordinator for 13 seasons who retired after Iowa's bowl game in December and was replaced by secondary coach Phil Parker] . I wish Ken could’ve stayed forever [O'Keefe, former O-coordinator who departed to be wide receivers coach with the Miami Dolphins last February after 13 seasons at Iowa], but it was the best thing in the world for Ken, I think at this point in his career. I kind of liken it Bob Bowlsby going to Stanford, same kind of move [the former Iowa AD who moved to Stanford and was recently hired as Big 12 commissioner]. It’s a new venture and a world totally different than what he was used to. I think it’s going to be stimulating, invigorating for him. And with Norm, obviously he wasn’t going to coach forever. Nobody can. Both made such [great] contributions, now we have opportunities for other people to do the same.
I feel really good about the people we have in place now. So, that part’s great.
You look outside the personnel part, what we’re doing facility-wise. We’re probably five years behind, quite frankly. Maybe we feel asleep at the wheel with that one. The fact is it’s going to be done here in two years when we move in. The construction of the indoor facility, that’s been invigorating for everyone, just to see that and watch it come together. Certainly to get the rest of this project done here in the next two years, it’s going to be exciting. That’ll pump life into us, too, help us. We’re constantly trying to upgrade our approach to everything, too.
You never get bored and there’s always a challenge.
CRG: Did you get a jogging buddy out of this, with Brian being around?
KF: I gave up jogging two years ago. I’m on a different track now.
CRG: That came out of my mouth, but then I thought, Brian probably doesn’t do a whole lot of jogging, either. [The staph infection cost him quite a bit of cartilage, a key component for jogging as it turns out.]
KF: Actually, he does some, which I’m not sure is smart, but I’m not so sure he’s so smart, so that’s his issue. He mixes it up.
CRG: They [doctors] still haven’t fully solved that cartilage thing.
KF: He was really lucky the way that thing all turned out. Dr. Todd McKinley said there was a chance the scar tissue would replace the ligaments. He was fortunate on that front and he had a great doctor. It all worked out and he doesn’t have any problems.
CRG: You stopped jogging?
KF: Yeah, I have some hip issues. I’m just doing machines now and lifting weights for the first time in my life. I’ve learned to love [the elliptical] and ride the bike.
What I miss is being outdoors and running through the campus, just seeing things. Now, I drive through areas where I used to run and I’m aware of what I’m missing.
It kinda stinks, but that’s the way it goes. You learn to love it.
On future NFL possibilities for James.
On hiring Brian.
On the future, including Ferentz’s attitude toward retirement.
On the future.