Kirk Ferentz still enjoys the recruiting grind after all these years

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Kirk Ferentz

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - One of the reasons Fred Hoiberg is coaching the Chicago Bulls instead of for his beloved alma mater Iowa State is because he supposedly hates recruiting.

He supposedly hates the chase, the long hours on the road and the sucking up that goes with recruiting.

But Hoiberg isn’t alone.

Lots of coaches have chosen to pursue professional jobs instead of at the collegiate level because they didn’t want to deal with the hassles and the demands that come with recruiting.

Kirk Ferentz, on the other hand, has spent over three decades coaching football at the collegiate level, including the past 19 seasons as the head coach for Iowa. He also coached the Iowa offensive line under Hayden Fry from 1981-89 and was the head coach for Maine from 1990-92.

Ferentz then spent six seasons coaching in the NFL before returning to Iowa shortly after the 1998 season to replace the retiring Fry.

Ferentz has had chances to be a head coach in the NFL since coming to Iowa, but has resisted the temptation. He reportedly was close to taking the Jacksonville job in 2002 and has been linked to other NFL openings.

But there he was on Wednesday conducting his 20th national signing day press conference as the Iowa head coach and sounding just as excited and committed as ever.

Actually, it is 21 signing day press conferences, considering Ferentz held one in December for the first ever early signing day.

But regardless of how many, Ferentz’s approach hasn’t changed.

Part of the reason Ferentz has stayed in college for so long is because he doesn’t mind the recruiting side it.

“There are a lot of things I really enjoy about recruiting, quite frankly,” Ferentz said at a Wednesday press conference to mark the late signing period. “You meet a lot of wonderful people. And the chance to go out and see, whether it be high school coaches that you meet. I talk all the time in clinics, in my mind that's the epitome of great coaching is what happens at the high school level.

“You get to meet so many wonderful people, head coaches, assistant coaches, guys that impact a lot of people's lives. A lot of tremendous players and a lot of tremendous people you meet in traveling. You hear interesting stories and that type of deal. Most of recruiting is actually pretty positive.”

And yet, some coaches still despise recruiting and want nothing to do with it.

Ferentz doesn’t like everything associated with recruiting, especially being away from home, but he still feels the good far outweighs the bad.

“I've never enjoyed that part and I certainly didn't enjoy it when my kids were young,” Ferentz said of being away from home. “Now my wife can't wait to get rid of me, so it's not a bad deal.

“There's a lot of positives in recruiting. You hear about some of the horror stories or people not being as forthcoming as they should be, but those things are usually in the minority. Our experiences have been good. Guys we've associated with on campus and the prospects and their families have been great, even the ones we didn't get.”

If Ferentz didn’t feel that way about recruiting, he probably would’ve bolted to the NFL years ago.

But he still gets excited about the chase and about meeting new people on the recruiting trail.

The recruiting landscape has changed dramatically since the 1980s, largely due to the influence of the Internet.

But Ferentz has learned to deal with it.

“The biggest change right now I would say from my vantage point, compared to the '80s, this is insanity, it never stops,” Ferentz said of recruiting. “There used to be some periods of rest or like a truce or whatever. But now it just never stops. It's ongoing.

“If you can't deal with that you've got an issue there. And that's the only thing about NFL, there's more of a separation of recruiting and in-season, when you're in season you're not looking at prospects, most coaches are not.”

Ferentz doesn’t get carried away on signing day by making bold predictions or by drooling over his new players.

Ferentz spoke highly of the new additions on Wednesday, stressing how well they fit the Iowa culture. He also praised his assistant coaches for working hard to assemble the 2018 recruiting class, which has 22 players.

Iowa added three more players to the class on Wednesday, including Georgia linebacker Jayden McDonald. The three-star recruit picked Iowa over Mississippi, Kansas State and Purdue.

Indianapolis defensive backs Julius Brents and D.J. Johnson also confirmed on Wednesday that they both had signed with Iowa.

Ferentz pretty much says the same thing year every year on signing day. His remarks are more predictable than his offense.

Wednesday's press conference was no exception.

“We've got a great class of 22 signees, and we're really happy with that,” Ferentz said. “I think all 22 have a very clear understanding what it takes to be a Hawkeye. Certainly that process will continue to move forward, but it's a great start with those guys.

“Also really happy with our walk on efforts. We went out and recruited a walk on class really hard. And happy to get about 18 guys that have committed. A number of those players and prospects turned down scholarship offers at other programs. I think that says a lot about their commitment to play here and also their desire to play at the University of Iowa.”

One of the incoming walk-ons is Marion receiver Blair Brooks, who is the grandson of Bob Brooks, the radio legend who passed away in June 2016 at the age of 89.

That part is neat," Ferentz said.

The fact that Ferentz still enjoys the challenge of recruiting says a lot about him and about his commitment to the Iowa program. That he is willing to spend so much time and effort reaching out to recruits at his age is inspiring.

Recruiting isn’t for everybody, but Kirk Ferentz still continues to be intrigued and energized by the process, even if it is year-round.

And that’s impressive.

Iowa's 2018 recruiting class

Seth Benson, LB, 6-1, 210, Sioux Falls, S.D. 

Dallas Craddieth, DB, 6-1, 180, Florissant, Mo. 

Dillon Doyle, LB, 6-3, 215, Iowa City

Samson Evans, ATH, 6-1, 190, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Henry Geil, RB, 6-0, 211, Green Bay, Wis.

Cody Ince, OL, 6-5, 260, Balsam Lake, Wis.

Jeff Jenkins, OL, 6-4, 272, Crystal Lake, Ill.

D.J. Johnson DB, 6-0, 170, Indianapolis, Ind.

Tyler Linderbaum, DL, 6-2, 255, Solon

Jack Plumb, OL, 6-8, 245, Green Bay, Wis.

Terry Roberts, DB, 5-10, 169, Erie, Pa.

Daviyon Nixon, DL, 6-4, 305, Iowa Western C.C.

Noah Shannon, DL, 6-2, 285, Oswego, Ill.

Tyrone Tracy, ATH, 6-0, 187, Indianapolis, Ind.

Julius Brents, DB, 6-2, 179, Indianapolis, Ind.

John Waggoner, DE, 6-5, 245, Des Moines

Calvin Lockett, WR, 6-2, 170, Largo, Fla.

Spencer Petras, QB, 6-5, 225, Kentfield, Calif.

Logan Klemp, LB, 6-3, 210, Jewell, Iowa

Kaevon Merriweather, DB, 6-2, 195, Belleville, Mich.

Nico Ragaini, WR, 6-0, 190, West Haven, Conn.

Jayden McDonald, LB, 6-1, 210, Suwanee, Ga.