IOWA CITY — Go to eBay and search “C.J. Fiedorowicz.”
What you see are sportscards and collectibles from the Iowa tight end’s appearance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Never mind that this was nearly three years ago now. Never mind that Fiedorowicz has 16 career catches going into his junior season.
He’s got autographed sportscards, some with jersey swatches from the Army Bowl, on eBay going for $.99 to $79.99.
This isn’t something Fiedorowicz walks around and basks in. He didn’t even know it until a reporter brought it up during Iowa’s media day.
“I bid on your rookie card the other day on eBay. You know you have a rookie card?” said the reporters.
“How do I have a rookie card already?” Fiedorowicz asked.
“It’s an Army rookie card.”
“Oh, the rookie card from the Army game.”
“Yeah, it’s going for 40 bucks on eBay. A lot of people are looking for you man.”
“Good stuff,” Fiedorowicz said somewhat bemused.
One thing in all of this rings true and it’s that a lot of people have been looking for Fiedorowicz since he played as a true freshman for the Hawkeyes in 2010. The 6-7, 265-pounder was a giant-sized recruit out of Johnsburg, Ill. Rated a four star by Rivals.com, Fiedorowicz walked onto Iowa’s campus with this from a Rivals scouting report sort of hanging over his head: “If Fiedorowicz ends up being able to block on running plays with consistency, he is a sure-fire NFL player.”
You’ve probably noticed that Iowa plays music over the PA system when the Hawkeyes open practice at Kinnick Stadium. That’s so you can’t hear some of the more pointed coaching points from coach to player.
Sort of like the time when head coach Kirk Ferentz suggested to Fiedorowicz that maybe he hustles because he’s not yet in the NFL.
“Yeah, it was my freshman year,” said Fiedorowicz, who caught 16 passes for 167 yards and three TDs last season. “Every practice, I was kind of taking plays off. In the NFL, they walk around and I wasn’t familiar working at that level yet. He was just getting on me to prove a point.”
“Definitely,” Fiedorowicz said. “No one wants to be embarrassed by coach Ferentz, obviously. Whenever he says something, you’ve got to take it to heart. It’s always good advice.”
Therein lies the fallacy of C.J. Fiedorowicz. A player simply can’t control the drums beating around him. Fiedorowicz isn’t putting Fiedorowicz autographed cards on eBay and buying them himself.
By all accounts, he takes coaching to heart and grinds away at his craft.
“Honestly, we think CJ is a good person,” said graduate assistant David Raih, who’s working with the tight ends this season. “You work with him and he’s a good guy who intends to do the right things.
“What happens is young people with talent, whether they’re ready for it or not, a lot of times get put in the limelight. For us, coach Ferentz does such a good job of keeping consistency and expectations for everyone.”
Are “hype” and “expectations” different? Depends where they come from.
This season sets up for Fiedorowicz. First-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis kind of advertised it in March when he said, “This is only 39 springs I’ve been in and I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and also stretch the field.”
Kirk Ferentz added: “This spring, he’s clearly at a different level, which is good. That’s what you hope to see in players. I think he’s really ready to play football for us. He’s got a lot of good gifts and skills.”
There’s still the doing it. There’s still the fact that Fiedorowicz has 16 career catches. No one is comparing him to the New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski, a jumbo tight end who set NFL records for most receiving touchdowns (17), most total touchdowns (18) and most receiving yards (1,327) last season.
Not even the coach who coached Gronkowski will go there. Brian Ferentz moved from Patriots tight ends coach to Iowa offensive line coach in February. He had a front row seat for Gronkowski’s stellar season.
“What we’re hoping is that C.J. can be a productive member of our football team, blocking on the edge, in the passing game and for protection when we call upon him,” Brian Ferentz said. “It’d also be nice to get something out of him on special teams.”
Raih talked about the concept of “max potential” and how it differs from players who have sportscards on eBay to walk-ons who buy their own books.
“What coach [Kirk Ferentz] talks about all the time is maximizing everybody on the boat,” Raih said. “I don’t ground C.J., not one coach has to ground him. He’s surrounded by really the team, the atmosphere of Iowa. It is truly a team.”
You look at Fiedorowicz . . . Wait, you look up at Fiedorowicz and see the broad shoulders and perfect football body and you think about “max potential.” You can see why the “hype” and the “expectations” tangle and leave everyone twitching at the possibilities.
“Whatever he becomes, I think that’s up to him,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’ll say this, he has a physical skill set that is impressive, but I think what’s important is that he goes out and demonstrates it on a daily basis here first.”
A CLOSER LOOK AT IOWA WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
The depth chart
Wide receivers: No. 1s – SE Keenan Davis, sr., 6-3, 215; WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, so., 6-0, 205; Nos. 2 – SE Don Shumpert, jr., 6-3, 190; WR Steven Staggs, sr., 6-3, 195. Tight ends: No. 1 – C.J. Fiedorowicz, jr., 6-7, 265; Nos. 2 – Zach Derby, sr., 6-3, 240; Ray Hamilton, so., 6-5, 248.
Wide receiver — It’s so easy to see this being senior Keenan Davis’ season to be the No. 1 target. He was the No. 3 behind Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt in 2010. He was the No. 2 behind McNutt in ’11. He watched them set pretty much every wide receivers record Iowa has. Still, Davis has to make it happen. When offensive coordinator Greg Davis mentioned a lack of speed on the outside with Iowa’s offense this spring, Davis went out and lost 10 pounds to get faster. Could sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley be Iowa’s version of Quan Cosby, the slot receiver who did tons of damage for Greg Davis at Texas? Tight ends — Along with Keenan Davis, junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has everything in front of him this season. Of course, he has to go out and do it. Iowa is deep at tight end. Senior Zach Derby, sophomore Ray Hamilton and redshirt freshman Jake Duzey are in the plans.
The No. 2s
Wide receiver — This is a difficult call. Greg Davis has said that he could see Iowa cycle through as many as seven wide receivers in games this season. That’s three to four more than the Hawkeyes have called upon for the majority of Kirk Ferentz’s 14 seasons as head coach. Fact of the matter is after Davis and Martin-Manley (combined 95 career catches), the candidates for Nos. 3 through 7 have six career receptions (Staggs leads with five). Tight ends — Derby went from one reception in 2010 to 12 last season. Hamilton played special teams as a true freshman and caught one pass. In Iowa’s final preseason scrimmage, Duzey caught a 25-yard TD pass. “He runs well, catches the ball well and creates mismatches,” Greg Davis said. “He’s a ‘B’ position guy. He has to be able to be a back, tight end and wide receiver. Jake can do those things.”
Wide receivers — Greg Davis has singled out true freshmen Tevaun Smith and Reese Fleming as two who could help this season. Fleming got the starting nod when Keenan Davis and Martin-Manley sat out. Redshirt freshman Jacob Hillyer was elevated opposite Fleming. He’s had a terrific camp and could be a strong candidate for targets after Davis and Martin-Manley. True freshmen Greg Mabin and Cameron Wilson could redshirt or they might get a look for special teams duty. Tight end — George Kittle was listed as an “athlete” going into camp and wears No. 46, just in case he ends up at fullback or outside linebacker. But during Iowa’s second scrimmage, he did see some time at tight end. Steve Ferentz, head coach Kirk Ferentz’s youngest son, caught a couple of passes in the scrimmage. The 6-1, 220-pounder probably redshirts, but does he stay at tight end his entire career? Or is this a holding pattern until he’s made into an offensive linemen?
– Marc Morehouse
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