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Harty: Try not to be shocked ISU never recruited Vandenberg

[ 13 ] September 6, 2011 |

Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater learned something about his starting quarterback on Tuesday that at first he couldn’t believe.

Now don’t worry because it was nothing bad unless you’re talking about the ability to recognize talent in your own backyard.

Prater was shocked to learn that Iowa junior quarterback James Vandenberg didn’t get offered a scholarship to play football at Iowa State.

In fact, Vandenberg didn’t get much attention at all from Iowa State despite ending his high school career as the most prolific passer in state history with 7,709 yards and 93 touchdowns.

“I thought for sure Vandenberg got offered,” said Prater, who grew up in Omaha, Neb., and was offered a scholarship by Iowa State.

Part of it could’ve been because Iowa State went through a coaching change after Vandenberg’s junior year at Keokuk High School, with Florida native Gene Chizik replacing Iowa City native Dan McCarney after the 2006 season.

Chizik, obviously, knows how to coach because you don’t win a national title, which he did at Auburn last season, by accident.

It just seems bizarre that Chizik didn’t pay any attention to Vandenberg even though it was apparent that Vandenberg had the skills to play for a BCS school.

Vandenberg also was the total package, having been a member of the National Honor Society and named to the Principal’s Honor roll 16 times in high school.

Now if you’re thinking that Vandenberg will use being snubbed by the Cyclones as extra motivation for Saturday’s game, you don’t know him very well.

Even if he did feel that way, he’s too smart to share it with the media.

And he seems too nice to hold a grudge, especially over a coach who isn’t around anymore and over a school that he wasn’t crazy about in the first place.

“I wanted to go to Iowa the whole time anyway,” Vandenberg said. “I didn’t really understand why I didn’t get recruited (by Iowa State).

“But when Iowa gave me the opportunity, it wiped everything away.”

Senior receiver Marvin McNutt also assumed that Vandenberg got an offer from Iowa State.

“I am kind of surprised,” said McNutt, who knows something about playing quarterback after having done so in high school and during his first year at Iowa. “He’s a good kid.

“But I think right now you leave some of that stuff behind because it’s all about the tradition we have here.”

One of the many reasons Hayden Fry succeeded in rebuilding the Iowa program in the early 1980s is because his staff dominated in-state recruiting and continued to do so throughout most of his 20-year reign from 1979-98.

Current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also has won way more in-state recruiting battles with Iowa State than he’s lost.

So with a player like Vandenberg, you almost assume that he was offered by Iowa State simply because Iowa offered him. And so did Nebraska for that matter.

Chizik, unlike McCarney and current Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, didn’t grow up in Iowa and never made in-state recruiting much of a priority during his brief two-year stay in Ames. At least, that was the perception.

So perhaps Vandenberg was ignored by Chizik because of where they both grew up.

Whatever the case is, Iowa fans are thrilled to have Vandenberg leading their offense.

They like him because he’s got a powerful right arm, a nice touch and a personality that makes it hard not to like him.

Iowa State fans will be less than hospitable Saturday and you can assume that Vandenberg will be at or near the top of their list of Iowa players to harass.

They can rip Vandenberg for being the Iowa quarterback because it goes with the territory. But they can’t rip him for picking Iowa over Iowa State because he never had a chance to make that decision.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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