Inside quarterback Spencer Petras' winding road to Iowa

Photo courtesy of Spencer Petras.

By Tyler Devine

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Four-star quarterback Spencer Petras had a difficult decision to make after taking an official visit to Iowa earlier this month.

Would the Kentfield, Calif. native stay committed to Oregon State despite a coaching change, or choose the stability at Iowa where Kirk Ferentz is nearing the end of his 19th season as head coach? 

After the visit, the decision was virtually a no-brainer for Petras.

“I had been kind of praying on my decision for a while because I had known that I probably wanted to make the decision to flip after I visited,” Petras said Tuesday. “A lot of prayer, a lot of talking with my family and making sure I thought it was the right decision. We came to the conclusion that yes, it absolutely was.”

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Petras wasn't even aware that Oregon State had made a coaching change because he had been out of town without cell phone service. The days surrounding the coaching change were a whirlwind for Petras and gave him with a lot to think about.

“It’s interesting,” Petras said. “It’s a little adversity. It all came together at once and I had been out of town the day they announced it without my phone on a retreat so I got back to a ton of messages and everything. It was just kind of busy. 

“Oregon State handled it really well and I got to kind of stay in contact with people. They handled it well but it’s never easy, it was pretty busy.”

Petras is no stranger to adversity.

During his freshman season at Marin Catholic, Petras broke his throwing arm and ended up playing defensive end.

Petras had the opportunity to play junior varsity as a freshman, but the injury and a family trip to Hawaii over the summer put him behind the other quarterbacks, according to his coach at Marin Catholic, Mazi Moayed.

Fast forward to his senior year, and Petras finished as the school's record holder for touchdowns and yards in a season, completing over 63 percent of his throws for 4,157 yards and 50 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions.

The records had been held by Jared Goff, who was the first player taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.

“He worked really hard and beat the other guys out and then he was the guy from there on out,” Moayed said. “He was just able to do everything a little bit better. He was a little bit bigger, a little stronger, more powerful and a little bit better arm. He was a little bit more committed than the other guys. Everything just sort of added up. His work ethic was tremendous and that sort of helped push him forward.”

Petras’ hard work also paid dividends in getting the attention of a Big Ten school from halfway across the country that rarely recruits in California.

Petras is among 15 players who are expected to sign national letters of intent with Iowa on Wednesday, which marks the start of the first early signing day for college football. He also will become the first quarterback from California to sign with Iowa since Dan McGwire in 1986.

Petras was one of three quarterbacks to receive a scholarship offer from Iowa during about a week-long stretch in early December, along with Utah native Zach Wilson and Texas native Matthew Baldwin.

After receiving the offer, Petras was on the UI campus less than two weeks later.

Petras met with Kirk Ferentz and his staff and immediately felt a connection to the program and to the school.

“The first thing that blew me away was coach Ferentz and the culture that he’s created there,” Petras said. “The fact that he’s been there so long and developed the whole thing. Just kind of touring the place it’s an awesome place. Iowa City is great. It was kind of a culmination of all that, but mainly it was coach Ferentz and his culture that he’s created.”

In a different universe, Petras might be signing a letter of intent with Nebraska on Wednesday.

Before his commitment to Oregon State, Petras wanted to play for Mike Riley at Nebraska.

However, that plan was derailed when Riley was fired the day after Nebraska lost to Iowa 56-14 in the regular-season finale. Riley has since returned to Oregon State as the assistant head coach. He also was the head coach for Oregon State in 1997 and 1998 and from 2003 to 2014.

“Originally, Nebraska was his dream school when he visited earlier in the year but they didn’t have a scholarship available at the time and so he committed to Oregon State,” Moayed said. “Later on after he committed, Nebraska offered him but coach Riley’s job was in jeopardy, so he wasn’t going to flip.”

Even with Riley's return to Oregon State, Petras felt more comfortable with the Iowa coaching staff.

“Mike is obviously a great coach and a great man, but one coach doesn’t make a program,” Petras said. “I’m really happy with Iowa.”

Petras now faces the challenge of adjusting to life in a town approximately 1,900 miles from his home in northern California. But he is used to change by now and is eager to start the next chapter in his life.

In fact, Petras is so eager that he plans to enroll at Iowa in Januray in order to get an early start on college. 

“I’m sure it’ll be different,” Petras said. “But the one thing I loved about Iowa is that I felt at home and everyone welcomed me with open arms and it felt like a great home. I don’t feel like it’ll be much of a shock but it’ll be different no doubt.”

The Iowa climate will certainly be a change for Petras. But he has dealt with winter elements before.

“I’ve visited Lake Tahoe with my family before,” Petras said. “That’s where we go skiing and stuff. It doesn’t snow where I live but I’ve definitely been in snow.”


Iowa's 2018 recruiting class

Name: Julius Brents

Height-weight-position: 6-2, 179, defensive back

Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.

Star rating: Four

Notable offers: Iowa, Boston College, Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Western Michigan

Name: Dillon Doyle

Height-weight-position: 6-3, 223, outside linebacker 

Hometown: Iowa City

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Central Florida, Northern Illinois and South Dakota

Name: Samson Evans

Height-weight-position: 6-0, 200, athlete

Hometown: Crystal Lake, Ill.

Star rating: Two

Notable offers: Iowa, Army, Ball State, Central Michigan, Colorado State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Syracuse and Western Michigan

Name: Henry Geil

Height-weight-position: 6-1, 211, running back

Hometown: Green Bay, Wis.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Bowling Green, Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan State, South Dakota State, Syracuse and Western Michigan

Name: Cody Ince

Height-weight-position: 6-5, 260, offensive lineman

Hometown: Balsam Lake, Wis.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Virginia and Wyoming

Name: Jeff Jenkins

Height-weight-position: 6-4, 272, offensive lineman

Hometown: Crystal Lake, Ill.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo

Name: D.J. Johnson

Height-weight-position: 6-0, 170, defensive back

Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Ball State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Purdue, Syracuse, Toledo and Western Michigan

Name: Tyler Linderbaum

Height-weight-position: 6-2, 270, defensive lineman

Hometown: Solon, Iowa

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa and Iowa State

Name: Calvin Lockett

Height-weight-position: 6-2, 170, wide receiver 

Hometown: Largo, Fla.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Boston College, Central Florida, Florida International, Illinois, Indiana, Marshall, Oregon State, Purdue, Southern Mississippi, South Florida, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Western Michigan and Wisconsin

Name: Spencer Petras

Height-weight-position: 6-5, 225, quarterback 

Hometown: Kentfield, Calif.

Star rating: Four

Notable offers: Iowa, California, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Louisville, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Syracuse, UNLV and Wyoming

Name: Jack Plumb

Height-weight-position: 6-8, 250, offensive lineman

Hometown: Green Bay, Wis.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Arizona State, Michigan State, Minnesota, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Wyoming

Name: Terry Roberts

Height-weight-position: 5-10, 169, defensive back

Hometown: Erie, Pa.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa

Name: Noah Shannon

Height-weight-position: 6-1, 300, defensive tackle

Hometown: Oswego, Ill.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Arkansas, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas State, Memphis, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, Washington State and Western Michigan

Name: Tyrone Tracy

Height-weight-position: 6-0, 187, wide receiver

Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.

Star rating: Three

Notable offers: Iowa, Ball State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Miami (Ohio), Navy, Northwestern, Syracuse and Western Michigan

Name: John Waggoner

Height-weight-position: 6-5, 245, defensive end 

Hometown: West Des Moines

Star rating: Four

Notable offers: Iowa, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State and UCLA

2018 class notes

First commit: Jeff Jenkins

De-commits: Tight end Anthony Torres (Western Michigan) and linebacker Ben VanSumeren (Michigan)

Players flipped from other schools: Spencer Petras (Oregon State) and Noah Shannon (Minnesota)

Average star rating: 3.13

Four-stars: Three

Three-stars: 12

Two-stars: 1

State breakdown

Three players each from Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin

One player each from California, Florida and Pennsylvania

What does it mean to sign with Iowa?

Jeff Jenkins: "It's been a long time since I've committed, so to say I'm officially a Hawkeye is a blessing and I'm just really excited."

Tyrone Tracy: "It's a huge accomplishment. I live in Big Ten country and now I play for a Big Ten team. It's crazy and I just want to meet mine and everyone's expectations. This team is exactly what I was looking for and it's the perfect fit for me."

Dillon Doyle: "Being a Hawkeye means everything to me. It means carrying on a tradition of a top football program and a top university. Knowing that I've been chosen to represent those that have worn the tiger hawk before me is something really special that I won't take for granted. I'm proud to have the opportunity to finally wear the black and gold on the field."

Terry Roberts: "It means the world to me. It means dedicating my life and my time to the University of Iowa, doing what I have to do to be a great Hawkeye. There is no better school to attend than the University of Iowa. There is no better athletics program than the University of Iowa."