By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Something happened that will prevent Brandon Snyder from being an inspiring comeback story for the Iowa football team.
Something happened that was so serious to where now there won’t be a comeback story because Brandon Snyder is no longer a member of the Iowa football team.
Iowa released the stunning news on Tuesday that Snyder had left the team, although, by then, it wasn’t that stunning because word broke on Monday morning that Iowa and Snyder had mutually parted ways.
“Brandon is a fifth-year senior who has earned his undergraduate degree and wants to see as much playing time as possible,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in a release. “We are allowing him to be released, which means he can play for another team immediately.
“We appreciate Brandon’s goal to play his full senior year. We wish him the very best and thank him for his grit on the field.”
Snyder didn’t waste time in finding a new school as he will finish his career at South Dakota State, which has qualified for the FCS playoffs in each of the past six seasons and whose campus is just barely a one-hour drive from his home in Larchwood.
The former multi-sport star from at West Lyon High School still has a chance to finish college on a high note, but not as a Hawkeye, and that is a shame, sad and disappointing.
Snyder’s abrupt decision to leave Iowa, assuming it was his decision, also makes little sense, at least on the surface.
The Des Moines Register published an article in June that described how Snyder had hit rock bottom after having two serious knee injuries, and after his arrest for drunken driving this past December, but that he was now on the comeback trail with a renewed drive and commitment.
The article focused on how adversity was helping to make Snyder a better person. It also gave the impression that Snyder was poised to be a leader on and off the field as a fifth-year senior with a proven track record as a player.
The article made you feel real good about Snyder’s emotional comeback, but now barely one month later, he’s gone for reasons that make little sense on the surface.
Sure, there was plenty of competition at the two safety positions, but since when did Brandon Snyder shy away from competition?
And assuming he is healthy, Snyder would have been Iowa’s most experienced and most accomplished safety.
He had no reason to leave from a playing-time standpoint.
The timing of his departure also made no sense with preseason practice set to start on Friday, unless something happened to effect Snyder’s status with the team, his status as a student or both.
Social media and Internet message boards were filled with rumors and speculation about what led to Snyder’s demise as a Hawkeye.
I was in the process of trying to reach out to Snyder’s father, Tim Snyder, for some clarification, but he beat me to it by contacting KCJJ radio on Tuesday.
I was told that Tim wanted to speak with me about Brandon’s situation.
Tim reached out shortly after I had posted on Twitter that there was more behind Brandon’s decision to leave Iowa than him simply wanting more playing time.
Tim and I spoke for about 15 minutes, but mostly I just listened to a father who was suffering from watching his son suffer.
Tim said that Brandon’s life started to unravel after his second knee surgery. The loneliness and isolation that comes with being injured caused Brandon to sink to a dark place emotionally.
It also caused Brandon to make some poor choices, some of which involved alcohol.
Tim acknowledged that Brandon has made some poor decisions, including recently, that not only tarnished Brandon’s image, but also the image of the Iowa football program. I told Tim what I knew and what was being said on social media and he said the circumstances weren't as bad the rumors that were being spread.
Whatever the case, the circumstances were bad enough to break a bond that was so strong at one time. It now seems apparent that Brandon did something recently to violate the trust of his teammates and coaches and that Iowa encouraged him to move on.
"Brandon has made some mistakes, obviously, going back to the DUI,” Tim Snyder said without being specific. “And since that point in time, Brandon has felt that he tarnished both his name and the Iowa name. And that’s been very tough for him to overcome.
“He’s never felt right after that second ACL (surgery). It’s not easy overcoming one ACL, but overcoming two and being away from your teammates and isolating yourself in a rehab and not being with your team was hard on Brandon.”
Tim’s voice cracked with emotion as he spoke about his son, who started all 13 games at free safety in 2016 and seemed destined for stardom as yet another over-achieving walk-on for the Hawkeyes.
What Tim said could be perceived as him making excuses for his son, and that’s probably true to a point, because Tim loves and believes in Brandon and because that’s what fathers do.
But Tim also acknowledged that Brandon has made some poor choices, including recently, and that he should be held accountable.
Brandon Snyder hasn't had any legal issues since his arrest for drunken driving, but that hardly tells the whole story. He was in the process of earning back the trust of his teammates and coaches, so maybe something happened in that regard.
“He’s never felt great inside since his second ACL,” Tim said. “It’s been very hard. He was a leader of the football team and he made a choice that tarnished his name, and more importantly, Iowa football. And that’s something that he could never get over, that he tarnished Iowa football. He did not ever want to do that.
“The slogan is keep your jersey in a better place, and for three years he did that.”
Tim was crying by the time he finished making that statement, and hearing the pain and anguish in his voice almost brought me to tears.
Tim wanted nothing more than for his son to finish what he started at Iowa.
Nothing against South Dakota State, but it’s not the same as being a Hawkeye.
Brandon's younger brother, Jaden Snyder, was set to follow in his brother's footsteps by joining the Iowa football team as a walk-on this coming season. But Tim Snyder said Tuesday that Jaden is now exploring his options as part of the fallout from Brandon's situation.
It could be awkward for Jaden Snyder to play for Iowa under the circumstances.
Brandon Snyder achieved his dream, but then let it slip away due to some obstacles that he couldn’t control and some that he could control.
Brandon can’t rewrite or change the past, but his future, and how it unfolds, is a clear page and will depend largely on the choices he makes.
Maybe a fresh start in a new place will be just what Brandon needs to get his life and his football career back on track.
One thing is for certain: Brandon Snyder has a father who loves him dearly despite his imperfections.
This is a sad ending to Brandon Snyder’s career as an Iowa football player, but it doesn’t have to be a sad ending to his college career with the final chapter still yet to be written.