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Tim Dwight as a Cornhusker?

[ 7 ] November 21, 2011 |

Tim Dwight Sr. is proud that his son stayed home to play football for the University of Iowa.

But the elder Dwight still wonders nearly 18 years later what might have happened if his son had spoken to Nebraska coach Tom Osborne just before signing a letter of intent with Iowa in February 1994.

That’s especially true this week with Iowa and Nebraska preparing to face each other for the first time in a Big Ten Conference game Friday in Lincoln, Neb.

Dwight’s son, former City High star Tim Dwight, was all set to sign with Iowa when the phone rang at his house.

Osborne was calling to make one last sales pitch to Dwight, who had rushed for more than 4,000 yards in high school and led City to a state title and an undefeated record as a senior.

“He wanted to talk to Tim one more time and Tim wouldn’t even talk to him,” Dwight Sr. said Monday afternoon. “He was afraid to talk to him because he was afraid he might change his mind.

“He said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to tell him. I just can’t talk to him.’”

Dwight’s father then politely told Osborne that his son would be staying home to be a Hawkeye.

“I was the one that had to do that,” the elder Dwight said. “It was a tough decision. He was such a nice man.”

Iowa fans are glad that the younger Dwight resisted the temptation to be a Cornhusker. Tim Jr. ended his career in 1997 as Iowa’s all-time leading receiver and as a consensus all-America return specialist.

He also finished seventh in the voting for the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1997 and then went on to play for nearly 10 years in the NFL.

Dwight was such a polarizing figure in college that some fans and members of the media went as far as to call him a modern-day Nile Kinnick when he played for the Hawkeyes.

His father cherishes his son’s memories as a Hawkeye, but the elder Dwight still wonders how Tim would have fit in during Nebraska’s run of unprecedented success.

The younger Dwight played at Iowa from 1994-97 under former coach Hayden Fry. Dwight’s teams at Iowa never finished with a losing record, but they also didn’t come close to matching what Nebraska did under Osborne during the same four seasons.

Osborne led Nebraska to national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997, finishing a combined 38-0 in those three seasons.

Osborne had a specific plan for how to use the 5-foot-9 Dwight, who also was a star sprinter and long jumper in track and field. Osborne wanted to use Dwight as a slot back, which is the same position that former stars such as Johnny Rodgers and Irving Fryar played at Nebraska.

“Tom told us exactly what he was going to do,” said Tim Sr. “Hayden kept telling Tim he was going to play running back and this and that. And you know how that all went, although, in the long run it probably came out fine.

“I remember (Osborne) was going to use him as that slot back type thing where they’d put him in a slot and still run plays with him. He told him out front that’s where we’re going to play him.”

Osborne, who is now the director of athletics at Nebraska, apparently was willing to go to great lengths to get his man.

“He said that the (Nebraska) governor, I’ll never forget this, he said the governor had a plane ready for Tom to come over just to talk to him one more time,” Dwight Sr. said.

Osborne already had been to Iowa City once to meet with Tim and with his father, who at the time was a teacher at City.

Tim Sr. met Osborne for the first time during a school day. It was during seventh hour when Tim Sr. was told by then City High football coach and athletic director Larry Brown to come to his office.

“I don’t think (Larry) told me who it was at that time,” Dwight Sr. said. “And I go, ‘Ok, I’ll come down.’

“Of course, I walk in and there’s Tom Osborne watching all these video clips of Tim.”

Dwight was used to hearing coaches rave about his son, but it meant more hearing it from Osborne, especially what Osborne said after watching the younger Dwight on tape.

“He said, ‘Mr. Dwight, I’m really glad to meet you,’” Dwight Sr. said. “You know I came here thinking I was recruiting a fast guy. But after watching these tape,s I can see that I’m here to recruit a football player.

“That was quite a compliment. That stuck with me all these years.”

His son still stuck with Iowa. It just wasn’t as easy as some might have thought.

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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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