An Appreciation of Josh Jackson and the Iowa Hawkeyes Development Program

There are two general feelings I get on Draft Day:

  1. A mixture of giddiness and hope that the Chicago Bears are going to make a selection (or five) that will turn this franchise back into the Monsters of the Midway and a perennial Super Bowl contender
  2. Pride in the University of Iowa and their development of players that were wildly recruited and completely overlooked

In terms of #1, I’m the most hopeful I’ve been in a very long time. Ryan Pace identified a winner last year in Mitchell Trubisky and will more than likely be selecting a Top-4 talent to bolster this roster that needs to be infused with talent.

As far as the latter goes, tonight could be the most proud I’ve ever been to be a Hawkeye football fan.

For those of you that only receive your college football news from the likes of Paul Finebaum and the fine folks at ESPN, you probably aren’t aware of the NFL factory that Iowa has created under the 20-year head man, Kirk Ferentz. You may not know that the Iowa Hawkeyes have put 63-players into the NFL including seven first round picks, seven second round picks, 12-third round picks and 10 fourth round picks including the likes of Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Robert Gallery, Chad Greenway, Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, Adrian Clayborn, Mike Daniels, Riley Reiff, Micah Hyde (5th rounder), Anthony Hitchens, Brandon Scherff and Desmond King.

You know, just to name a few.

That tradition will only continue tonight when Ferentz — who will be on location in Dallas and in the green room — will be looking for his first pair of first round picks in CB Josh Jackson and C James Daniels.

Not only have these two been the consummate Hawkeyes (along with Josey Jewell who is also going to hear his name called this weekend), but they also represent the two different roads to Iowa and beyond. That is, if you put in the work and simply commit to the coaching of Ferentz, his right hand man and strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and defensive coordinator Phil Parker.

There’s no secret sauce at Iowa. The “Hawkeye Way” is the “Patriot Way”. Kirk Ferentz is Tom Thibodeau is Bill Belichick. You may be the most talented player in the world, but if you aren’t doing your job in the classroom, paying attention to the details in the film room and then doing your job on the field, someone else who is will play over you.

Discipline and hard work is valued over ceilings and recruiting stars.

That’s what makes Josh Jackson so special; none of it was expected and all of it was earned. He is Iowa football. As a former 2-star recruit with only one Power-5 offer, Jackson’s assent to this stage is one of the most entertaining and awe inspiring performances I’ve seen from a student-athlete at my Alma Mater outside of, I don’t know, maybe Shonn Greene?

Jackson went from a major question mark with one career start heading into last season to a consensus All-American (who led the nation in passes defended) in the blink of an eye. A one time depth chart casualty — mainly, because of Desmond King — turned NFL prospect that was deployed to ruin the plan of quarterbacks and wide receivers all over college football… INCLUDING JOSH ALLEN (who looked like a chump against Iowa’s defense):

What’s crazy is that there are people out there that have watched some sort of highlight package like the one I linked of Jackson above and assumed that this happened over a career. But it was all in one blitz of a season.

One.

Uno.

“Josh is a unique story and a great story,” Ferentz said. “To think about him being a one-game starter coming into this year, and (becoming) a consensus all-American … that just doesn’t happen very often. We all thought he’d play well, but none of us envisioned him playing at the level he played at.

“It’s a real credit to Josh, all the hard work he’s invested.

What’s that saying about hard work and talent again?

Iowa and Ferentz may be a punching bag or a punch line depending on who you watch or listen to. But there is no question that when it comes to preparing their athletes for the NFL, there aren’t many others in college football that do it better.

The numbers and years and quality of talent speak for itself at this point.

Jackson is not some random success story. That’s too simple. Rather he will more than likely become the 64th player under Ferentz that bought into a simple idea, put in the effort, paid attention, fought, clawed and pushed their way to the top and ultimately reached the highest level in football.

And as he walks across that stage and embraces his future, I (along with all of Hawkeye Nation) will simply nod and smile in delight.

 

 

 

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