IOWA CITY — You probably haven’t heard of Casey Kreiter.
The only way the Iowa football long-snapper from DeWitt would have made news is if he had messed up, snapped the football over the head of Connor Kornbrath as Kornbrath was getting ready to punt or hold the ball for placekicker Mike Meyer.
For every Anthony Hitchens or C.J. Fiedorowicz, there are seniors who put in four or five years in Iowa’s football program without much mention, but still contribute to the team. Their reward is having done it and carrying that with them through life.
“It’s just a really tough road,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said this week. “It’s not for everybody. I think I speak for everybody on our staff, anybody that comes through the program and makes it to midfield at Kinnick (for Seniors Day recognition as Kreiter and his classmates will do Saturday before the Michigan-Iowa game), that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Kreiter’s remarks about what he got from his five years in Ferentz’s program don’t need supplementing comments.
“I wasn’t very highly recruited out of high school,” Kreiter said. “I had somewhat been recruited by UNI, Iowa State, Iowa, and a lot of Division III schools for linebacking and deep-snapping. I was 189 pounds. The big thing was ‘Are you going to be big enough to play here?’ I was saying ‘I’m cutting 20 pounds for wrestling. I can put it back on. I’ll be fine.’
“Iowa asked me to walk on. I told them I wanted to wait it out and see what my options were. But I knew I was going to come here. I loved the place, loved the atmosphere, loved the coaches. And I walked on at linebacker. I played that the first year.
“I got moved to defensive line at the end of my first year. I really didn’t enjoy that. I wasn’t having fun, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was still long-snapping at the time. I think long-snapping is what pushed them to say they wanted me to walk on here.
“Andy Schulze was going to graduate the next year and we really didn’t have anybody else (to long-snap). I raised my hand and said I can help the team out best if I just long-snap. It’s worked out for me being a three-year starter. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I love helping the team out as best I can.
“From coming here, I’ve developed, and really found out how to be a man and how to do the right things. One of my academic advisers asked me to speak at an (monthly UI athletics department) ‘All Staff’ meeting earlier this year. I said my big points were doing the little things right, because that’s the most important thing Coach and the rest of the staff preaches, doing the right thing every single day and not taking the day off, because you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, and really learning how to win each day.
“Because if you win each day, you’re putting the end result of whatever that may be in the bank, whether it’s a game at the end of the week, whether it’s celebrating a good test. It’s winning each day, studying, going to class, all those little things that add up. That’s what I’ll take away and portray to people I’m around when I’m done here and doing whatever I’m doing.”
Kreiter has been on the Hawkeyes’ Leadership Group for three years, and began this year as a two-time member of the Big Ten’s All-Academic Team. His major is science education. His father, Kurt Kreiter, is Central DeWitt’s athletics director. He formerly was the head football and head wrestling coach at the school, and taught biology, anatomy and physiology.
“People joke about me following in the footsteps of my dad,” Kreiter said. “I’m 100 percent OK with that. I looked up to him since I can ever remember. He just taught me how to do everything right and carry it over to here and learn at the next level.
“I was put on scholarship at the start of my red-shirt sophomore year after camp. Coach called me in a couple days before class started and told (punter) Eric Guthrie and me that they were going to put us on scholarship. I was so grateful. It was an emotional day for me.
“Coming here, my focus was never on getting a scholarship. My focus was being the best player I could be. That’s what I tell young guys who come in here as walk-ons. I tell them if your focus is on coming here and earning a scholarship, it’s not going to work out for you. You’ll end up frustrated, resenting other people because you think you deserve something. If you come here, try to do the best you possibly can and that stuff will work out.
“You see guys come back here as honorary captains and they love talking about the time they spent with their teammates. Someone said the practices weren’t fun, but he missed being able to spend time with his teammates.
“I was able to compete at a very high level against some of the best athletes in the country in an elite conference and being able to say, ‘You know what, I did that.’ I may not have thought I could have done it when I was growing up. I might have dreamed about it. But I actually did it.
“Running out of Kinnick, playing at the Big House, Ohio State, Penn State, all the stadiums. I’m going to cherish every moment.
“You go to a former teammate’s wedding and you see seniors who were players here when you were a freshman. It’s ike we’ve known each other for our whole lives. That’s the aspect of being on a team, of having a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
“That permeates from the D-I level all the way down to D-III and the junior college level. My dad talks about that same feeling, that feeling with your teammates and that pride you have, the struggles you go through every day, the ups, the downs, the hard times, the summer conditioning, going through tough losses and bouncing back. Those are the things that help us become men, that help with the trials you face every day and the resiliency to come back.
Let’s close this with another quote from Ferentz:
“I say it all the time. I say it to our team, anybody that runs the race to become a senior and go through their senior year here, whether they’re four-year starters like James Morris or guys that never hit the field, the level of commitment that takes, mental toughness, all that stuff, the work these guys do behind the scenes, it’s amazing.”
Minutes after I posted this piece online I got this tweet from former Iowa/NFL punter Ryan Donahue:
'10 @Minnesota. 15 degrees. Schulze gets a concussion. In comes Casey for his 1st punt snap ever. I was ready for anything #perfectsnap
Eric Guthrie sent me this:
He is the epitome of the Iowa program. Does things right and was a leader even as a younger player. The type of player Iowa Football was built on.