5 things that almost kept Matt Roth from the UI

Published: September 6 2012 | 12:36 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:02 am in
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From Iowa sports info (make sure you keep reading):

MATT ROTH IS HONORARY CAPTAIN

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Former Hawkeye All-American defensive end Matt Roth will serve as Iowa’s Honorary Captain this weekend as the University of Iowa opens the home season by hosting Iowa State (2:42 p.m., BTN) in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game.

Roth earned second team All-American honors as a senior in 2004 while helping the Hawkeyes claim a share of the Big Ten championship.  Roth was also named second team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation.  He was named first team all-Big Ten as both a junior and senior and is a four-year letterman.  He was a team captain as a senior and was drafted in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.

The native of Villa Park, Ill., helped the Hawkeyes post a 38-12 record in his four seasons.  Iowa shared the Big Ten title in both 2002 and 2004 and won bowl games following the 2001 (Alamo), 2003 (Outback) and 2004 (Capital One) seasons.

As a senior, Roth led the Big Ten in quarterback sacks (7), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (3) in league games only.  Roth’s final game as a Hawkeye was the 2005 Capital One Bowl, a last-second 30-25 victory over defending national champion LSU.

Roth led an Iowa defense in 2004 that ranked fifth nationally in rushing defense, sixth in turnover margin, 11th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense.

Roth enjoyed a seven-year career in the NFL, playing for Miami, Cleveland and Jacksonville while playing both defensive end and linebacker.  He started nine games for Jacksonville in 2011 in his final season and currently resides in Iowa City.

Roth will accompany the Iowa captains to the center of the field for Saturday’s pregame coin toss.  He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game and on the sidelines during the contest.

This is a sidebar I wrote in 2004 that accompanied a much longer piece on a visit I made with Matt Roth and family in suburban Chicago.

The entire piece was seriously fun to write. I would post the longer one, but I think I've had that up here before.

Matt Roth was a high school senior in 2000, gathering 47 written college football scholarship offers. In 2000, the Iowa Hawkeyes finished 3-9. In 2000, the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished 10-2 with a 66-17 victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.

So, Roth would play his college football for the Huskers, who recruited him as a defensive end.

"I told him he needed to go to Nebraska," said T.J. Roth, Matt's older brother.

"Want to tell him the truth, Matt? Who you picked the first time?" said Tom Roth, Matt's dad.

"Oh, yeah, Nebraska," Matt said.

Matt Roth was a Husker for two days. His dad asked him, if he wasn't playing football, where would he want to go?

Matt knew then-Iowa offensive lineman Eric Steinbach, who's also from the Chicago suburbs. The two are so close Steinbach took Roth to Hawaii during Roth's spring break last March.

T.J. had friends at Iowa. Matt had friends at Iowa.

"I felt good at Iowa," he said, "but they were so bad. They were horrible."

During his recruitment, Matt and his dad had the strength coaches from their final schools write letters telling them what they could do with Matt.

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle sent a list of players and their gains in strength and speed.

"There was just so much vast improvement," Tom said. "That worked. Everyone else wrote letters that were full of crap. Coach Doyle had hard, concrete stuff they showed us."

The Roths said Iowa assistant Lester Erb, who recruits Illinois, was key. And defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who told Matt, who came to Iowa as a linebacker, there would be a lot  of blitzing.

You can count on one hand how many times the Iowa defense, one of the top in the Big Ten the last two years, has blitzed since Roth arrived.

"Yeah," Matt says with a big smile, "Norm lied."

In the seventh grade, Matt was building a fort with a friend. They pilfered a few boards from a lumberyard and had to drag them over some train tracks and under a train.

"The train started moving," Matt said. "We barely made it out."

There was a time when the kids were in the doctor's office, when Matt was very young. Matt felt a tightness and couldn't catch his breath. He stopped breathing and had to spend three days at Loyola Hospitals in Chicago.

"He almost needed a tracheotomy," Tom said.

Since Matt picked No. 31 at Iowa, the Roths have looked for the number in their lives.

Matt finished 31-0 his senior year in wrestling. His mother, Kelly, had seat 31 on a flight to Miami for the Orange Bowl. Matt's cell phone is dominated by 31. There's a 31 in a  family member's security code. Can't say who or which, then it wouldn't be a security code, would it?

And then there was the time Matt got lost. He was 3 or so and got lost for 15 minutes or so during a trip to Kohl's. They found him at a Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors eating an ice cream cone.

On a family vacation to Florida, Matt, then 7 years old, went surfing with a local kid. About a half hour after Matt went out, the kid he was with knocked on the Roths' condo door and  asked if Matt was there.

"We thought he was with you,' " Tom Roth said. "The kid said he was but hadn't seen him for a while."

The family was frantic for a half hour, running up and down the beach looking for Matt.

After about a half hour, Matt came walking up the beach. He got caught in a rip tide and was

pulled a half mile into open sea before he could swim back.

"We were frantic," Tom Roth said. "That, by far, was the scariest."

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