Posted by: marcmwm | July 15, 2009

Hall of Ferentz — Offensive tackle

Robert Gallery carried the American flag while leading the Hawkeyes onto the field prior to the 2003 Orange Bowl in Miami. Gallery, now an Oakland Raider, did plenty of banner carrying for the Hawkeyes, winning the Outland Trophy in the 2003 season. (Gazette file)

Robert Gallery carried the American flag while leading the Hawkeyes onto the field prior to the 2003 Orange Bowl in Miami. Gallery, now an Oakland Raider, did plenty of banner carrying for the Hawkeyes, winning the Outland Trophy in the 2003 season. (Gazette file)

Robert Gallery will soon earn the second contract of his NFL career. He’s healthy and happy and has found a home in the league as a guard. Yes, he was drafted No. 2 in the 2004 draft to play left tackled for 12 seasons, but that didn’t work. Now, he’s thriving at guard with some Pro Bowl mention last season.

1) Robert Gallery (2000-03)

Here’s a story Gazette columnist Mike Hlas wrote on Gallery when the Raiders happened to play in Tampa the same time the Hawkeyes were there for the Outback Bowl in January.

Here’s a story I wrote when Gallery and the NFL donated $10,000 to East Buchanan High School athletics.

Here’s something current junior Bryan Bulaga might be considering:

IOWA CITY – Robert Gallery is poised to make a smart play. And it won’t involve cleats.

Iowa’s 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle is a bona fide first-round NFL draft prospect. When he pondered jumping to the NFL after his junior year last spring, NFL scouts told Gallery he would be a first-round pick.

“I was told I’d go somewhere high,” Gallery said. “I didn’t know where, maybe early, maybe late. I know I’ll be a better player next year. There won’t be a maybe next year. That’s why I came back, to get rid of that maybe. I want to be that definite guy.”

A first-round draft pick is a multimillion-dollar commodity. The thought of losing it all on one twist of a knee, wrench of the back or tweak of any assorted limb is there for Gallery and all college football players with first-round possibilities.

Bring up Miami (Fla.) running back Willis McGahee and Wisconsin receiver Lee Evans, who suffered torn knee ligaments late in their college careers, and Gallery shakes his head.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz’s advice is insurance.

“I think it’s a smart thing,” Ferentz said. “It still comes down to career-ending injuries, but I still think it’s a wise thing to do. It’s a small price to pay for a peace of mind.”

With big money on the line, more and more college football and basketball players are considering insurance to protect their future value. Gallery is investigating NCAA or private insurance options.

“I’m hoping to sit down a little bit more and check it out,” Gallery said. “It’s the kind of thing I’ve got to decide on my own.”

About 33 percent of NFL first-round picks are part of the NCAA’s Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program each year, according to Brendon Bruner, of American Sports Underwriters International, which administers the NCAA’s program. The NCAA began the program in 1990. Iowa has had athletes purchase policies, according to Iowa associate athletics director Fred Mims.

Under the NCAA’s program, athletes are eligible if three NFL scouts come to a consensus the athlete will be selected in the draft’s first three rounds.

About 100 elite athletes, mostly football players, are loaned money by the NCAA to pay insurance premiums, which can be pricey. Similar policies cover a college hockey player projected to be selected by the third round of the NHL draft and potential first-round draft choices in the NBA, WNBA and Major League Baseball.

About 75 percent of the program’s participants are football players, said Bruner, a vice president for sports underwriting at ASUI.

In addition to the NCAA’s program, athletes can obtain policies from other insurance companies. McGahee, then a sophomore, took out a policy with Total Planning, a Florida-based financial consulting firm, before tearing knee ligaments in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

For football players, the average policy cost is $7,800 to $15,000 per $1 million insured, Bruner said. Costs fluctuate based on position. Offensive linemen can get less expensive policies.

If an athlete wants $2 million to $3 million in coverage, it could cost $20,000 to $25,000.

“It’s not cheap,” Gallery said. “It’s something that’s good for a lot of guys.”

Gallery is adamant that this season is about “team.” His eyes spring open for emphasis, “I came back for this team, more than anything else. I want what we had last year. I want that success for this team.”

He also admits the NFL is in his thoughts. And you can’t blame him. Jordan Gross was the “definite guy” this year. The 6-4, 300-pounder was drafted eighth by the Carolina Panthers. He was the first offensive lineman picked last April. Last week, Gross signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with a $10.4 million signing bonus.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper calls Gallery “the best left tackle in college football.”

Gallery says he’s only as good as his last game, or, as he puts it, game film. He wants to have a stellar season and wants to be the “definite guy.”

“The main thing is going into the year with the right mind-set to have the best 12 games I can possibly have,” Gallery said. “If I have 12 good games on film, that’s going to take care of everything (when it comes to the draft).”

An insurance policy would allow him to play without sweating every move. He could put the twists, wrenches and tweaks in the back of his mind.

“It’s not going to do me any good to play scared,” Gallery said. “It’s (insurance) definitely something that’s in the back of your mind. I think it would make you breathe a little easier.”

__________

Gallery was a consensus all-American and has his portrait hanging in the Iowa football complex. He was the third Iowa Hawkeye (Calvin Jones and Alex Karras) to win the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top interior lineman.

2) Marshall Yanda (2005-06)

There’s an excellent update on Yanda today from the Baltimore Sun.

Last October, the former Hawkeye blew out his right knee, tearing the anterior cruciate and medial and posterior collateral ligaments. The Ravens’ staff is looking forward to a return for a bigger, stronger Yanda. He’s up to 315 pounds. He’ll likely sit out the Ravens’ first six games on the PUP list, but he hopes to be cleared for practice in August.

Here’s an from a 2006 story:

IOWA CITY — Growing up on a farm, he pitched calf condos, pitchforking wet, heavy, stinky manure and cornstalks.

He fished, hunted and partied in high school. Mom didn’t gloss over the partying, using the terms “roadhouse,” “outlaw” and “a lot of crazy stuff.”

He shared a dorm room, a puny air conditioner and a frying pan with five football players for a summer at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. Somewhere among the calf poop, parties and community college, Marshal Yanda found his way to a dream.

Dream? Bit of an overstatement, maybe? Aren’t we going a little overboard here?

Well, Ruth Yanda skipped the Yankee Dirt Track Classic at the Farley Speedway on Sept. 15, 1984, and gave birth to Marshal. The first thing on his head was the ubiquitous blue cap that goes on all baby boys’ heads. Then he weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces. Off went the blue cap and on went a little Hawkeyes hat.

“They said he’s going to play for Hayden someday,” Ruth said.

Ruth and John Yanda raised Marshal on a dairy farm northwest of Anamosa. A little more than 40 minutes from Iowa City, the Hawkeyes rule here. Marshal’s first Halloween costume was an Iowa football uniform, his sister Katie’s an Iowa cheerleader outfit.

So dream isn’t an understatement. It just stayed a dream a little longer for Yanda.

Coming out of Anamosa High School, Marshal’s athletics resume was fine. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman earned first-team all-district as a junior and senior and was a three-year letterwinner playing line on both sides of the ball. He showed the good feet Division I-A linemen need to show with two letters in basketball.

He got a call from Iowa State. Got letters from Iowa. The athletics were OK, the academics another story. He didn’t have the grades or the ACT score to go D-I, so he had to look into juco.

“I started my senior year (at Anamosa) to get better grades, but it was already too late,” Marshal said. “I ruined it my first three years. I was young and didn’t have in my mind-set that I needed good grades to get where I wanted to be.”

Now don’t take this as his being rowdy, though there was some partying, grounding and lecturing.

Marshal was raised on a farm and has a huge love for fishing and hunting. He’s a gear guy who knows his way to Cabelas in Owatonna, Minn., and Prairie du Chien, Wis. He has one of those underwater cameras for ice fishing. He just finished building a duck blind for his boat, which he’s had since he was 16.

When Yanda was 14, he raised chickens so he could save enough money to race go-karts at Delaware, something the family did every Saturday night for four years.

As a kid, he went from the wide-open spaces and chasing cats to sitting in a desk at school. That sitting wasn’t easy when the walleyes were biting, the pheasants were flying and the deer were rutting.

“I wanted him to have fun and I wanted him to do something when he was young that he could do when he was older,” Ruth said, “so he wouldn’t sit in those damn bars and drink beer and do all that other idiot stuff that they all do.”

_________

 Yanda was a second-team all-Big Ten selection his senior season (2006). He was also named the Hawkeyes MVP on offense.
 

3) Bryan Bulaga (2007-08)

Will he stay or will he go? Bulaga might face that question after this season, his third year at Iowa. NFL draft experts have put him on their lists, high on their lists in some cases.

Here’s a short story on Bulaga’s switch to LT during last offseason (turned out to be a pretty good move, BTW):

IOWA CITY — Good days are hard to come by for football players during the long winter months of lifting and conditioning.

A tap on the shoulder from the head coach helped Bryan Bulaga’s winter kick into lightspeed.

That’s when Bulaga, a 6-foot-6, 301-pound sophomore, found out Coach Kirk Ferentz wanted him to give left offensive tackle a try. When you get to the major-college level, left offensive tackle is a big deal. It’s a big-money position in the NFL, with a left tackle’s ability to protect a right-handed quarterback’s blindside drawing millions in contracts. The big names make in the range of $20 million a season.

So, yeah, you’re lifting and sweating and then your coach, who’s a renowned offensive line coach in NFL circles, asks if you want to play left tackle.

“I was definitely up for it,” Bulaga said.

Last year during his freshman season, Bulaga played in the Hawkeyes’ opener against Northern Illinois. During the game, he suffered a shoulder injury that limited him for seven weeks. In week eight, he broke into the starting lineup at left guard. A big deal for a true freshman.

“When I was recruited, I just wanted to go where I could help out,” said Bulaga, a Parade Magazine All-American as a senior at Marian (Ill.) Central Catholic.

But …

“Of course in the back of my mind, that’s where I wanted to play,” he said. “Now I’m getting the opportunity and I’m very grateful for that. I’m going to make the most of it. But when I was getting recruited, anywhere would’ve been fine with me.”

The biggest difference at left tackle is pass protection. Guards usually have help on the inside. Left tackles are pretty much one-on-one with the other team’s best pass rusher.

“Getting used to it again in camp has been a bit of a challenge, but I feel I’m doing it well,” Bulaga said.

__________

Bulaga was a second-team all-Big Ten pick by league coaches and honorable mention by the media (I didn’t have a vote this year, FYI). He was a second-team all-American pick by SI.com. Earlier this summer, ESPN.com’s Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg ranked Bulaga No. 5 in his list of the Big Ten’s top 30 players.

Honorable mention: Pete McMahon. McMahon came to Iowa from Dubuque Wahlert (an excellent school, so I’m told). He was a walk-on. The only reason Iowa coaches said yes to him was because of his great size (6-7, 323) and a videotape his brother helped put together. It worked. He started at right tackle for 2004 Big Ten co-champions and was still on the NFL fringe last season, trying to realize that dream.

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Responses

  1. A perfectly legal, brutal hit by Yanda.

    I hope Bulaga takes that insurance policy unless he completely dominates this year, which he just might.

  2. If that hit by Yanda doesn’t get you pumped for the season there is something wrong with you.

  3. This is literature.

    “I wanted him to have fun and I wanted him to do something when he was young that he could do when he was older,” Ruth said, “so he wouldn’t sit in those damn bars and drink beer and do all that other idiot stuff that they all do.”

  4. Of course, it’s good for the program if he comes out this year. For every Bulaga there are 50 kids who think they can be Bulaga. Every SUI lineman who does well becomes an objective, a role model, for 17 year-olds who think that they can do it too. Steinbach, Gallery, Bulaga. We’re talking about $50mm men, here. Only Bulaga was not a constructed lineman, a guy converted from something else.

    Based on the early recruiting results, this is happening. Every single one of the 2010 class is an “assignment football” dude, code for “athlete who will listen to his coach, do what he is supposed to do, and be where he is supposed to be.”

    No idea if this has any predictive value in regard to “avoids 1$ beer nights at the Nickelodeon.” Don’t really care anymore, either.

  5. Marc – we need a beer o’clock soon.

  6. Actually, Bellanca, Bulaga was also a TE in high school. A really good one too; he had several schools recruiting him for the position.

  7. Beer ‘O Clock next week, maybe. I have a Dark Lord that I need to break open.


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