Nate Kaeding retiring from the NFL at the age of 31 reminded me just how old I am. It also got me thinking about where he ranks among the greatest University of Iowa football players of all time.
Kaeding is without question one of, if not the, greatest Iowa kicker of all-time. He is Iowa’s all-time leading scorer with 373 points and was the recipient of the 2002 Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate kicker.
You also could make a case for Kaeding being one of Kirk Ferentz’s top 10 players at Iowa regardless of position.
So that’s what I did, along with picking nine other former Hawkeyes for my list of the top 10 players under Ferentz, who is entering his 15th season as head coach.
I initially tried to rank the 10 greatest Iowa players of all time, but came up with 10 before reaching the end of the 1950s. There simply are too many quality candidates to narrow it down that much.
It was hard enough trimming the list to 10, but putting them in order was almost impossible. If there wasn’t such a thing as deadline, I’d probably still be doing it.
The list is based solely on what the players did in college, explaining why NFL all-Pro offensive lineman Marshal Yanda didn’t make it. However, it’s not based solely on individual accolades because if that were the case all you’d have to do is pick between the 11 players who have earned some kind of first-team all-America recognition under Ferentz. But that would’ve excluded the likes of Bob Sanders, Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge, which is ridiculous.
It’s also worth noting that injuries kept tight end Tony Moeaki from making the top 10 list. A healthy Moeaki takes a back seat to nobody who has played under Ferentz.
1. Robert Gallery, offensive lineman, 2000-03: He helped pave the way literally and figuratively for Iowa’s resurgence under Ferentz and did so after switching from tight end to the offensive line. Gallery was widely regarded as the top collegiate offensive lineman as a senior in 2003 and was awarded the Outland Trophy to prove it. He was a dominant force at left tackle as a junior and senior, and it’s no coincidence that Iowa combined to finish 21-5 in those two seasons. A graduate of East Buchanan High School, Gallery also helped to establish the offensive line as the strength of Iowa’s program under Ferentz and nothing has changed a decade later.
2. Bob Sanders, defensive back, 2000-03: The Erie, Pa., native came to symbolize what the Iowa program stands for under Ferentz as somebody who defied the odds to achieve greatness. Iowa and Ohio were the only two schools to offer Sanders a scholarship and he made opponents pay for the snub with each one of his bone-jarring hits from his strong safety position. Sanders made first-team all-Big Ten twice and was a second-team all-America selection in 2003. He also brought a mentality of toughness that inspired his teammates.
3. Nate Kaeding, kicker, 2000-03: The West High graduate didn’t make tackles or break tackles. He just made field goals at a rate that made him a force as a sophomore, junior and senior. Kaeding, who announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday, won the 2001 Alamo Bowl with a last-second field goal, established a school record by making 22 consecutive field goals, made 5-of-6 field-goal attempts from beyond 50 yards and 7-of-9 while participating in three bowl games.
4. Abdul Hodge, linebacker, 2002-05: The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native often was overshadowed by fellow Hawkeye linebacker Chad Greenway, but Hodge was a dominant middle linebacker for three seasons. He actually made first-team all-Big Ten before Greenway did, earning that distinction as a sophomore in 2003. Hodge is third on Iowa’s career tackles list with 453, including 289 solo stops.
5. Chad Greenway, linebacker, 2002-05: He and Hodge became close friends in college and arguably the top linebacker duo to ever play for Iowa. Greenway is fifth on Iowa’s career tackles list with 416. A former high school quarterback from South Dakota, Greenway used his athleticism to excel. He was physical enough to stop the run and agile enough to perform well in space.
6. Dallas Clark, tight end, 1999-2002: Imagine if he would’ve played his senior season at Iowa instead of leaving for the NFL. It made sense for him to leave, though, because Clark was considered the top collegiate tight end in the country as a junior in 2002. He won the John Mackey Award that season and helped Iowa finish 11-2 overall and undefeated in the Big Ten for the first time in 80 years. Not bad for a former walk-on linebacker from tiny Livermore.
7. Matt Roth, defensive end, 2001-04: He was a disruptive force whether on special teams or at defensive end, where he established himself as arguably is the best passer rusher to play at Iowa under Ferentz. Roth finished his career with 43 tackles for loss and 30 sacks. The Villa Park, Ill., native also twice made first-team all-Big Ten and he made quarterbacks have to be aware of him at all times.
8. Marvin McNutt, receiver, 2008-11: Name the receiving record at Iowa and chances are that McNutt holds it. The former high school quarterback from St. Louis is Iowa’s all-time leading receiver with 2,861 yards and 28 touchdowns. He finished with a school-record 1,315 receiving yards as a senior in 2011 and was named the Big Ten’s top receiver that season.
9. Brad Banks, quarterback, 2001-02: The last two players on the list are one-hit wonders, but how could you leave off a quarterback who finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2002? Banks made the list because he performed at a level rarely approached by an Iowa quarterback, albeit for just one season. The Belle Glade, Fla., native led Iowa to an 11-2 record in 2002 and is one of the few dual-threat quarterbacks to star for the Hawkeyes over the past three decades.
10. Shonn Greene, running back, 2005-06 and 2008: The Sicklerville, N.J., native led Iowa’s second resurgence under Ferentz by rushing for at least 100 yards in all 13 games in 2008. Greene led Iowa to a 9-4 record that season after the program had combined to finish 12-13 in the previous two seasons. He also was the recipient of the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate running back.
25 playes also considered in order: Tyler Sash, DB, 2008-10; Bryan Bulaga, OL, 2007-09; Mitch King, DL, 2005-08; Jonathan Babineaux, DL, 2001-04; Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR, 2007-10; Eric Steinbach, OL, 1999-2002; Ladell Betts, RB, 1999-2001; Adrian Clayborn, DE, 2007-10; Bruce Nelson, OL, 1999-2002, Ricky Stanzi, QB, 2007-10, Drew Tate, QB, 2003-06; Pat Angerer, LB, 2006-09; Fred Russell, RB, 2001-03; Aaron Kampman, DL, 1999-2001; Howard Hodges, DE, 2000-03; Jovon Johnson, CB, 2002-05, Amari Spievey, CB, 2008-09; Micah Hyde, DB, 2009-12; Marshal Yanda, OL. 2005-06; Riley Reiff, OL, 2009-11; Albert Young, RB, 2005-07; Shaun Prater, CB, 2008-11; Tony Moeaki, TE, 2005-07-09; Colin Cole, DT, 1999-2002; Fred Barr, LB, 1999-2002.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football