5 Things: Iowa football Media Day

Aug 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Print View

IOWA CITY — Iowa football Media Day was Saturday. In most cases, there’s not a lot of breaking news to be learned, nor is there a ton known about what the team will look like come Sept. 3 against Wyoming because there have been four padded practices.

Still, it’s a madhouse because both media and fans want to hear from coaches and players. There’s a certain frivolity that comes with the territory. Some players and coaches steer into the skid. Others don’t.

Whether it’s something like what happened in the weight room this summer, who the most interesting man is on the team or how any of that translates to the field, players get a mix of serious and off-the-wall questions.

Because the time for serious analysis of the football team will come in the next few weeks, here are 5 Things from Media Day related to what kind of team this is that wasn’t necessarily Xs and Os.

1. Pumping iron

Workout videos adorn the internet, and power lifting videos are among the most-viewed. Humans can lift a ridiculous amount of weight with the right training. For the Iowa football team, two names were thrown out most often as the guys who could raise eyebrows in the weight room — most specifically in the squat: linebackers Aaron Mends and Amani Jones.

Both players have cleared 600 pounds in the squat, which is like lifting the vending machine in your office or the piano in the lobby of a hotel.

Obviously, lifting has a tremendous effect on the ability of football players. But even a guy like Ben Niemann had to laugh when asked why any human needs to lift 600 pounds, saying, “QUOTE

Mends and Jones had a pretty simple answer: because they can.

“No, you probably don’t (generally), but here at Iowa you do,” Jones said. “As I kept squatting and squatting, I just kept putting more weight on. I came out of high school with a 500-pound squat. I put 500 on here and they didn’t think I could do it.

“I want to achieve a lot here. I want to be on the board. I want to set something no one can get.”

Mends has a high mark of 622 pounds, which is best among linebackers. He said the overall record is somewhere in the 670-pound range, but he couldn’t remember exactly.

Regardless, the mark he’s at now impresses his teammates and provides competition in the weight room that translates onto the field literally and figuratively. Being able to lift like that shows something about a person, Mends said.

“I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with that,” Mends said. “Hopefully it’ll get higher as I spend more time here.

“It says something about a person internally. I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but I put up a lot of weight because I choose to. Not everybody can do it. You’ve got to work hard. It’ll help you build speed, core stability. It accents your athleticism.”

2. New kid on the block

Graduate transfer running back James Butler was available Saturday for the first time since joining the Hawkeyes, aside from the standard questions about fitting in from an on-field standpoint, he’s still getting to know everyone off the field too.

As for who’s the fastest guy is on the team?

“I don’t even know. Maybe Max Cooper, the new freshman? He’s faster than you’d believe.”

On who’s the most interesting player?

“My roommate, James Daniels, he’s the most interesting,” Butler said. “He’s a big, but he’s a goofy kid. He’s fun to be around. I think when you see that big of a guy, he’d be mean. But he’s not. He’s the nicest kid I’ve ever met.”

On what it’s like with his new roommates/teammates, including Daniels at home:

“They’ve got me down there in the dungeon,” Butler said. “We’re both in the basement, but his room has a door and mine doesn’t, so that’s probably why (he mentioned it). My room is currently covered by a blanket. I’m making due.”

3. Quotable quote

Media day almost always is good for a quote or two that gets a laugh or raises an eyebrow. While answering a question about former Iowa City Regina standout Drew Cook’s move from quarterback to tight end, Coach Kirk Ferentz used a bucket as a metaphor.

A bucket of what? Even Ferentz didn’t know.

“I hate to rank guys, but he’s up there pretty high on all-time attitude list,” Ferentz said. “You could hand him a bucket of whatever, and he would say, ‘That’s a great bucket, Coach, thank you.’ One of those deals. He’s that kind of guy. He’s a team guy all the way. His dad was the same way. I hope lightning strikes twice. His dad was a high school quarterback, too, as I understand it. So, going to be great. He’s got a tremendous attitude.”

4. Media Day quirks

Some of the Iowa players and coaches enjoyed playing along with some of the more oddball questions. Others, understandably, didn’t.

When it came to the weight room discussion, strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle didn’t have much time for joking around. His business is a serious one, and he takes it that way.

“I couldn’t even tell you (who set the highest bench press),” Doyle said. “We have some strong guys. We’re not numbers driven. We’re not walking around waving the flag for individual lifting numbers. It’s not something we do.

“We’re getting ready to play football, not win bench press contests.”

When it came to interesting players and roommate scenarios, defensive line coach Reese Morgan laughed it off.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Morgan said through a laugh, when asked who the most interesting set of roommates was. “They were in the hotel last night. If you ask me a week from now, I could give you an answer.”

It’s not all bad to take things seriously. Maybe not having time for silly questions from the media means the Hawkeyes are locked into what they’re supposed to be locked into.

5. By the numbers

622: The record for maximum squat by a linebacker at Iowa, held by Aaron Mends

605: Pounds Amani Jones can squat

124: Players on the roster

57: Players on the roster from Iowa

47: Media outlets at Media Day

16: Number of times Kirk Ferentz said “certainly,” in his Media Day news conference

10: Preseason All-Big Ten players (Jewell, first team; Welsh, first team; Bazata, fourth team; Daniels, second team; Myers, fourth team; Anthony Nelson, third team; Niemann, fourth team; Rugamba, fourth team; VandeBerg, fourth team; Wadley, second team)

8: States that have more than three players on the roster (Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland)

6: Watch lists featuring linebacker Josey Jewell (Big Ten, Lott IMPACT Trophy, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy)

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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