IOWA CITY — Robert Gallery attended his first football game in person last Saturday since hanging up his cleats for good in August.
As Iowa’s honorary captain, Gallery spoke with football team on Friday, preaching a message of embracing the moment. By Saturday, Gallery had the itch to play once again, especially at Kinnick Stadium.
“I miss that. I really do,” Gallery said. “(Saturday) morning, when these guys were getting out of bed, I was so jacked up I wanted to run out of the tunnel right then.”
Gallery, 32, played eight NFL seasons, seven of which were spent in Oakland. He started 102 games, primarily at guard. After a season in Seattle, he signed with New England in the off-season before retiring.
“I kind of set a standard with the way I needed to play and I had over the past while,” he said. “When I couldn’t do that, it was time for me to decide to call it a career. The right or wrong reason, that’s what I decided. I always played the game a certain way and with a few surgeries in the past few years … I’ve got a family to think about. The main thing for me was if I can’t perform at the level that I set for my own self, then I’m done.
“It was a tough decision, but the right one.”
Gallery was a consensus All-American in 2003 and became the third Hawkeye to win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman. He didn’t allow a sack in 36 consecutive games and was drafted No. 2 overall by the Raiders. He didn’t live up to expectations as a dominant left tackle, but he became one of the league’s top guards under former Raiders Coach Tom Cable.
“It’s tough. Getting drafted that high, a lot of expectations,” Gallery said. “But at the end of the day to earn those things that you want and go the Pro Bowl, you have to have a winning team. Let’s call it what it is.
“The last five or six years, I played at a high level and got the respect of the players I played against and the coaches that coached against me,” Gallery said. “It’s tough when guys tell you, ‘Hey, if you would have won more games, you should have gone to the Pro Bowl the last couple of years.’”
Gallery had to play through multiple coaching changes and blocking philosophies in his career. At Oakland he was drafted by Norv Turner, played for Art Shell, then Lane Kiffin and Cable. When the Raiders fired Cable, he became Seattle’s offensive line coach and Gallery followed him there.
Through the coaching changes Gallery had to adapt to different philosophies and blocking styles, and it didn’t always work. He was labeled a bust, which was tough to accept.
“I was proud for the tough times that I went through, there were tons of coaches, different things that they wanted you to do,” Gallery said.
“It’s tough. You try to be a coachable guy. I’ve always been and tried to do what the coaches want you do to it. With Art and Jackie Slater, they were great players, but it doesn’t translate to being able to coach guys. They had their ways of doing it, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for me.”
Gallery played through several injuries, such as a torn groin muscle and a broken leg.
“This is the thing that normal people don’t know,” he said. “When you’re young, that stuff affects you. Last year I played with a torn ab. I’m not making excuses or have a pity party for myself, but that’s how I played. I could have sat out or had surgery, that’s not who I am. I played on a broken leg one time until I shattered it. That’s my own fault.
“People can say what they want but the people who coached me, the trainers, people I worked with would know what type of guy I was. I’m proud of that, and that’s who I am.”
Gallery now resides in northern California with his wife and two daughters. He’s helping his family in the Winthrop area with the fall harvest but is unsure what he’ll do in the future. He might return to college and would like to restore old cars.
“I’m done now and I can be proud of what I was able to do,” he said.
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