Posted by: marcmwm | September 6, 2008

Bruggeman story — from Saturday

I’m not sure if you guys read these big stories on the blog. I put them here in case you do. Also, in case you come here for something else, maybe one of these stories will grab your attention. Maybe, it’s good for recent reference, too.

The Bruggeman story got a big boost when teammate Gavin McGrath, a fellow Cedar Rapids Washington alum, spilled the beans on Rob Bruggeman’s Beanie Baby collection. He was 12, give him a break.

These fun nuggets are so few and far between. When you find them, they’re gold.

It played pretty well into the final line of the story, anyway.

It’s Bruggeman’s time to play football for Hawkeyes

By Marc Morehouse
Photo

(The Gazette)
Rob Bruggeman (51) wraps up City High’s Phil Kennedy in 2003 during Bruggeman’s senior season at Cedar Rapids Washington. Not highly sought as a recruit, Bruggeman chose to walk-on at Iowa, worked hard, fought through some injuries, earned a scholarship and is now the Hawkeyes’ starting center.

IOWA CITY — This is the time Rob Bruggeman can joke about his Beanie Baby collection. He was 12, give him a break.

This is the time he can run out of the Kinnick Stadium tunnel and have it mean something. This is the time Bruggeman can be an Iowa football player, starting center, someone who means something on game day.

This is the time he does interviews and learns that a lifelong friend has revealed to reporters his various odd collections, including Beanie Babies, Pez heads and shoes.

This is the time he gave five years of his life to reach. This is not the time to ask the the 22-year-old Cedar Rapids Washington graduate to look back and give deep, wistful answers to the tear-jerker questions.

This is the time for Rob Bruggeman to play football. That’s about it, really.

“I never expected anything,” Bruggeman said. “The big thing here for me was to come in and try to play. If they wanted to give me a scholarship, that’s fine. If they wanted to play me, then even better.”

Bruggeman’s story at Iowa is five years old, so you know there’s a twist or two.

There was the day in April 2007 when his body went one way and his knee went the other during a workout in the indoor practice facility. He tore an ACL and MCL. At that point, he was still a walk-on.

Oh yeah, there’s that part, too.

He came out of Washington with no scholarship offers. No partial scholarship offers. No real interest from Iowa Conference schools in Division III.

“The main reason I came here is they were the most honest with me,” Bruggeman said. “They told me the whole time there was a chance I’d have a scholarship, but probably not.”

The day he tore his knee up, Coach Kirk Ferentz gave him a scholarship. Bittersweet moment, right?

This is the part of the movie when the rock music kicks in and the inspirational recovery montage starts.

Bittersweet? Try just plain bitter. Bruggeman gladly and gratefully accepted the scholarship, but he was more PO’d. Playing was that much further away. Remember, he said it at the top, it was about playing, not about a scholarship.

“It’s been a conversation we’ve had,” said Chuck Bruggeman, Rob’s dad. “It was never the intent to go to the University of Iowa to get a scholarship. It was to go to the University of Iowa to play football. Then he wanted to be somebody who played at a level where they’re impacting the game.

“Yeah, he was really irritated when he got injured. He was on the path where I think he was going to achieve what he wanted.”

He was. Ferentz has said that he considered Bruggeman, a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder, a starter going into the 2007 season. Bruggeman did play last year, seeing handfuls of series in Iowa’s final three games after doctors cleared him to play.

Bruggeman ran a close No. 2 to Rafael Eubanks, a two-year starter, at center last spring.

This fall, Bruggeman broke through and claimed the job. He’ll make his second start today against Florida International. Eubanks has shifted to left guard.

So this is where the hero overcomes, the big moment. Well, yeah, but the really big moments, where Bruggeman put himself in position to earn a shot at a role as a fifth-year senior starter, happened in Iowa’s weight room. They happened when he pushed iron and ran all the sprints, shuttles and agility drills.

He went to Iowa in the 250-pound range.

He now owns the best bench press among centers during Ferentz’s 10 years at Iowa, 475 pounds. That’s five more than Outland Trophy tackle Robert Gallery did while in Iowa City.

“He was constantly getting stronger and his times (sprints and shuttles) kept going down,” Chuck Bruggeman said. “If he started peaking at those kinds of things, he might have had doubts. It kept going and he knew it would eventually pay out and I think it has.”

These grunt moments in the weight room don’t rate big drama. But without them, we never find out about the Beanie Baby collection. Oh, and the Hawkeyes don’t have a center the coach seems totally giddy over.

Remember, Ferentz pulled the trigger on a scholarship when Bruggeman sat in the training room with a knee that needed reconstruction.

“I think of him as a three-year starter, because of the way he acts and practices,” Ferentz said. “I thought that (the offer) might make him feel a little better, and know that he earned that. I didn’t want him to think that we were throwing him to the curb there.”

Curb, schmurb. Bruggeman would’ve taken five years of life on a curb for a chance to play. No one wanted him coming out of Washington. They wanted plenty of his teammates.

Adrian Arrington, the biggest name, went to Michigan and is now a wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints. Maurice Cantrell is starting fullback at Colorado. Quarterback Warren Suess earned a scholarship at Ball State.

“I kidded him my freshman year (at Washington),” said Suess, who graduated from Ball State in four years and is working in finance in Chicago “When we came in, I benched more than he did and he came in weighing X amount more pounds than I did. I kidded him, but you see now. It’s just a tribute to how much he wanted it.”

Bruggeman wasn’t alone at Iowa.

Gavin McGrath, a 2004 Washington classmate, is also a walk-on in his fifth year at Iowa, playing key roles on special teams this year, Running back Paki O’Meara, a 2006 Wash grad, also is a walk-on who’s now No. 2 on the depth chart.

People, sign your kids up now for Metro Youth Football in Cedar Rapids. All these guys started there. People might still be talking about the Franklin Middle School team that had Bruggeman, McGrath and a host of future major-college players. That team was undefeated and didn’t allow a point the entire five-game season.

“Yeah, I think I still have that T-shirt,” McGrath said. “We had a lot of fun. We still talk about that a little bit.”

It was McGrath who let the Beanie Baby thing out to reporters this week. He also told everyone about the Pez dispensers and Bruggeman’s current shoe fetish. Bruggeman was mortified. Seriously mortified.

“Just go with Jordans,” he said. “Let’s not even talk about the other two. Help me out here.”

The Beanie Babies are in a box in his dad’s basement office. This is the time for Rob Bruggeman to play football.

n Contact the writer: (319) 398-8256 or marc.morehouse@gazcomm.com

Photo

(The Gazette)
Rob Bruggeman (51) wraps up City High’s Phil Kennedy in 2003 during Bruggeman’s senior season at Cedar Rapids Washington. Not highly sought as a recruit, Bruggeman chose to walk-on at Iowa, worked hard, fought through some injuries, earned a scholarship and is now the Hawkeyes’ starting center.
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