Thursday morning's news that Cedar Rapids Xavier senior-to-be football player Matt Nelson had verbally committed to Iowa was a source of great joy in Hawkeyeland because Nelson is a genuine prospect, a 6-foot-7 athlete who had Notre Dame and Stanford as his two other final choices.
But this is a double-win for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. Not only is he getting a player who could be a big help to his defensive line one day, he also protected his backyard.
I'm not talking about the state of Iowa. I'm talking about Cedar Rapids-Marion, a half-hour drive from the Iowa football complex to Cedar Rapids' city limits. Cedar Rapids doesn't produce a ton of top prep football players. So if you're Iowa, you can't let big-time recruits from Cedar Rapids go elsewhere.
It has happened before. Receiver Adrian Arrington of Cedar Rapids Washington went to Michigan in 2004. He had 98 catches over his final two seasons, including a touchdown reception in a Rose Bowl and nine catches for 153 yards and two TDs in a Capital One Bowl.
Washington had another top prep receiver right after Arrrington, and Iowa scooped up Keenan Davis, who completed his college career last season.
Iowa didn't sign Christian French of Cedar Rapids Kennedy. He played in the U.S. Army All-American Game. French chose Oregon over Iowa and Notre Dame. He went to Oregon as a tight end in 2011, but was switched to defensive end last year and played as a back-up as a redshirt freshman last year.
It remains to be seen if French will be a college player of impact. But he was a blue-chipper from Cedar Rapids who left Iowa.
Another who left C.R.-Marion was David Parry of Linn-Mar, who moved into a starting role at defensive tackle for Stanford last season as a junior. He was a first-team all-state offensive lineman as a Linn-Mar senior, but he joined Stanford as a preferred walk-on. Iowa also offered Parry the chance to be a preferred walk-on, so we''re not talking about four-star recruit.
Parry's parents were originally from San Francisco and he has lots of relatives in the Bay Area.
Nelson isn't leaving. That's good for the Hawkeyes from a football and public-relations standpoints.
By the way, it isn't as if Cedar Rapids-Marion hasn't had other recent players who were important to the Hawkeyes, like tight end Allen Reisner of Marion High and center Rob Bruggeman of Cedar Rapids Washington. Those were two very good college players. But Reisner wasn't an elite recruit, and Bruggeman began his Iowa career as a walk-on.For a team that slipped to 4-8 last season, the Hawkeyes certainly haven't gone into the fetal position when it comes to recruiting.