1) Matt Roth (2001-04)
One of the most singular personalities in the Ferentz era, I was lucky enough to be invited for a home visit to the Roths in OakBrook. They were hilarious. Unfortunately, these might have still been the days when The Gazette was still charging for internet access. If this scheduling thingie works, that story should be under this one.
Here’ the sidebar from that story:
Five things that almost kept Matt Roth from coming to the University of Iowa:
Matt Roth was a high school senior in 2000, gathering 47 written college football scholarship offers. In 2000, the Iowa Hawkeyes finished 3-9. In 2000, the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished 10-2 with a 66-17 victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.
So, Roth would play his college football for the Huskers, who recruited him as a defensive end.
“I told him he needed to go to Nebraska,” said T.J. Roth, Matt’s older brother.
“Want to tell him the truth, Matt? Who you picked the first time?” said Tom Roth, Matt’s dad.
“Oh, yeah, Nebraska,” Matt said.
Matt Roth was a Husker for two days.
His dad asked him, if he wasn’t playing football, where would he want to go?
Matt knew then-Iowa offensive lineman Eric Steinbach, who’s also from the Chicago suburbs. The two are so close Steinbach took Roth to Hawaii during Roth’s spring break last March.
T.J. had friends at Iowa. Matt had friends at Iowa.
“I felt good at Iowa,” he said, “but they were so bad. They were horrible.”
During his recruitment, Matt and his dad had the strength coaches from their final schools write letters telling them what they could do with Matt.
Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle sent a list of players and their gains in strength and speed.
“There was just so much vast improvement,” Tom said. “That worked. Everyone else wrote letters that were full of crap. Coach Doyle had hard, concrete stuff they showed us.”
The Roths said Iowa assistant Lester Erb, who recruits Illinois, was key. And defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who told Matt, who came to Iowa as a linebacker, there would be a lot of blitzing.
You can count on one hand how many times the Iowa defense, one of the top in the Big Ten the last two years, has blitzed since Roth arrived.
“Yeah,” Matt says with a big smile, “Norm lied.”
The fort, the train
In the seventh grade, Matt was building a fort with a friend. They pilfered a few boards from a lumberyard and had to drag them over some train tracks and under a train.
“The train started moving,” Matt said. “We barely made it out.”
Breathe, kid, breathe
There was a time when the kids were in the doctor’s office, when Matt was very young. Matt felt a tightness and couldn’t catch his breath. He stopped breathing and had to spend three days at Loyola Hospitals in Chicago.
“He almost needed a tracheotomy,” Tom said.
Since Matt picked No. 31 at Iowa, the Roths have looked for the number in their lives.
Matt finished 31-0 his senior year in wrestling. His mother, Kelly, had seat 31 on a flight to Miami for the Orange Bowl. Matt’s cell phone is dominated by 31. There’s a 31 in a family member’s security code. Can’t say who or which, then it wouldn’t be a security code, would it?
And then there was the time Matt got lost. He was 3 or so and got lost for 15 minutes or so during a trip to Kohl’s. They found him at a Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors eating an ice cream cone.
On a family vacation to Florida, Matt, then 7 years old, went surfing with a local kid. About a half hour after Matt went out, the kid he was with knocked on the Roths’ condo door and asked if Matt was there.
“We thought he was with you,’ ” Tom Roth said. “The kid said he was but hadn’t seen him for a while.”
The family was frantic for a half hour, running up and down the beach looking for Matt.
After about a half hour, Matt came walking up the beach. He got caught in a rip tide and was pulled a half mile into open sea before he could swim back.
“We were frantic,” Tom Roth said. “That, by far, was the scariest.”
Roth is going into his fifth season with the Miami Dolphins. He finished his career at Iowa with 30 sacks.
2) Aaron Kampman (1998-01)
I don’t have a lot on Kampman. But there is this from 2000:
IOWA CITY – Believe it or not, Aaron Kampman was one of those rare football players who actually had to watch his weight. Not that he’s vain, he just wanted to stay quick on his feet.
This offseason, the Iowa middle linebacker has been a regular visitor to the training table.
Kampman, a junior-to-be, has put 20 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, going from 245 to 265, and will switch to defensive end next season, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
“He’s a naturally big kid, big boned, so he had to work to stay at around 245 last year,” Ferentz said. “It was kind of our feeling for him to switch and he agreed.”
Kampman started all 11 games at middle linebacker last season, finishing second on the team with 100 tackles. As a freshman, Kampman started two games and was among the team leaders with six sacks. Last season, he didn’t record a sack.
“We weren’t unhappy. We liked the job he did at linebacker,” Ferentz said. “We’re trying to upgrade our speed on defense. We’re not the deepest along the
defensive line, and he will help us at end.”
Going into spring drills, Kampman will be listed No.2 on the depth chart behind senior Anthony Herron and junior Cody O’Hare.
Red-shirt freshman Howard Hodges, a 6-2, 225-pounder, will also switch from linebacker to end.
The candidates to take Kampman’s place in the middle include juniors Mike Dolezal and R.J. Meyer and red-shirt freshman Edgar
Cervantes. It’s possible that one of the three recruits at linebacker could push into some playing time.
Red-shirt freshman Erik Jensen, a 6-3, 242-pounder, will move from fullback to tight end, which will be the youngest position for the Hawkeyes next season.
Red-shirt freshman Robert Gallery is No.1 on the depth chart, Ferentz said. The former East Buchanan prep weighs in at 275, Ferentz said.
I’m not sure which coach was responsible — I think it was Ferentz, but might’ve been Norm — but genius move. Kampman is going into his eight season with the Green Bay Packers. There is a little stress this year. The Packers have switched to a 3-4 defense, moving the Pro Bowler from defensive end to outside linebacker. Kampman also is in a contract season, maybe his last shot at a big deal. In 2006, Kampman signed a four-year deal worth $21 million.
(Marc the lifelong Packer fan here. Why are they screwing with a guy who has 49.5 career sacks, including 37 in the last three years? Plus, Kampman and his wife, Linde, have become pillars in the Green Bay community. He’s one of the better people in the NFL. Um, fellas, Kampman is a D-end, not a ‘backer. Let him do what he does. End of Packer rant.)
3) Howard Hodges (2000-03)
Hodges was another Ferentz recruit that ignored measurements and played way bigger than his 6-2, 250 (and even those were iffy).
Two proven sack threats. Two athletic defensive ends. Two potential mismatches.
“We’ve got two guys who last year did a great job getting to the quarterback,” (former Iowa D-line coach Ron) Aiken said. “That’s going to be a key factor in offenses trying to set up who they’re going to double.
“Are they going to double Howard or are they going to double Matt Roth? That can cause problems for people when they start to scheme and set up a gameplan for protecting the quarterback.”
Hodges made a splash last season, his first as a full-time starter. He had nine sacks and tied for second on the team with 11 tackles for loss. He was a media pick for first-team all-Big Ten.
“I know if I don’t do what I did last year or something a little better than last year, I’m not going to reap any rewards and I’m not going to be remembered as anything,” said Hodges, a 6-foot-2, 257-pound senior. “This year is a whole new year, just like for everybody else.”
Also on the Outland Trophy watch list, Hodges’ trip to first-team all-conference has been unconventional, to say the least. He arrived at Iowa a 6-1, 195-pound linebacker from Copperas Cove, Texas.
Yet, he played defensive end from the beginning and took his lumps on his way to a defensive end’s 250 pounds. Oh, and he’s not really 6-2, either, Aiken said.
“The one thing that Howard has learned to do is take his athletic ability and put together technique, understanding pad level and hand placement … as opposed to being caught up in how much he weighs.”
Hodges finished his career with 21 sacks, including 12 in his senior season (2003). Great update here on Hodges and being cut by the Calgary Stampeders. The man was paid to play football for five years.
This is one of the five weirdest things I’ve seen on the internet. Howard Hodges’ girlfriend?
Honorable mention: Bryan Mattison. Mattison finished his career with 20 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He remains attached to the Baltimore Ravens, where his father, Greg, is defensive coordinator. Near the end of his career, I talked to Bryan about coaching. I would expect he’d end up there and would make a good one.