IOWA CITY, Ia. – Conor Boffeli committed to play football at Iowa State in July 2008.
Coach Gene Chizik had been the first to offer the tight end from West Des Moines Valley, and Boffeli jumped at the opportunity.
“I committed right away, before anyone else came in,” Boffeli said. “And then Iowa offered a couple of days later. It was like, ‘Too bad.’ ”
But Chizik never coached Boffeli. And Boffeli never played for Iowa State. Instead, he’ll start Saturday at left offensive guard for Iowa against the Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium.
Chizik’s departure for Auburn in December 2008, a month after telling reporters that he and his family were “firmly entrenched” in Ames, was a career-changing moment for Boffeli as well. With signing day still two months away, he reevaluated his commitment to the Cyclones and wondered if Iowa was a better place for him.
Valley coach Gary Swenson, fresh off a 14-0 season and a state title, was in Dallas, Texas, with his sons to attend a Cowboys game when Chizik left Iowa State.
“My phone starts ringing,” Swenson said. “The first guy to call me was Jacob McDonough, who was already at Iowa State. He was in a panic, because Chizik had left and that’s who recruited him. He said, ‘What do I do?’ I said, ‘You stay there. They’re going to hire a new coach.’ And I no more than hung up and Conor calls me.”
Swenson said Chizik’s departure left Boffeli very unsettled, because he had been comfortable and established relationships with that staff. And now they were gone.
“So he asked me, ‘Do you think Iowa would still have room for me?’ ” Swenson recalled. “I said, ‘Boy, I have no idea. You’ve turned them down once. But I’ll call and find out.’ ”
So Swenson called Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan.
“I said, ‘Reese, he’s very interested again,’ ” Swenson said. “Whether or not you guys get back on him, that’s up to you. I’m just conveying the message for a kid who probably, obviously, doesn’t want to do it himself. (Morgan) said he’d have to talk to the boss” — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa, deep in preparations for an Outback Bowl game against South Carolina, did offer a scholarship for a second time. A week before signing day, Boffeli accepted.
“I had closed the door, so I knew it might not open again,” Boffeli said. “I hoped it would. Things just worked out in the end.”
Ferentz said this week he didn’t remember the specifics of the Boffeli’s switch to Iowa.
“I remember watching him on tape as a tight end at Valley and being really impressed with him,” Ferentz said.
Iowa projected Boffeli as a offensive lineman, which is where he’s been his entire college career.
It’s been a career that has tested Boffeli’s commitment and patience.
“I think he questioned his commitment a time or two when he first got there, about whether he wanted to do this or not,” Swenson said.
Boffeli did wonder if he had made the right choice.
“When I first got here I was still 245 pounds, trying to compete against these guys 40 to 50 pounds heavier than I was,” Boffeli said. “It took me awhile to adjust to the style our offensive line plays here. They’re tough, physical and fast. But once I did adjust, I really embraced what it means to be a lineman here.”
Boffeli, now a fifth-year senior, has waited his turn. He started the final three games at left guard last season, and that’s where he’ll be at Saturday.
“Now he’s getting his reward,” Swenson said. “He’s a good player.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football