Iowa tight end Nate Wieting preparing for an unexpected role as a starter

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Nate Wieting makes a 30-yard catch in the 2018 season opener against Northern Illinois. Photo by Jeff Yoder

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – One person’s success is sometimes another person’s opportunity.

Or, in the case of Iowa senior tight end Nate Wieting, the success of two people has created an opportunity that he probably didn’t see coming a year ago.

With former Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant now preparing for their rookie seasons in the NFL after having left college with eligibility remaining, Wieting is now poised to make his first career start for the Hawkeyes.

“It’s kind of unexpected,” Wieting said Tuesday afternoon. “I was talking to T.J. a little bit last year at this time and he was going into his second year as a starting tight end, and I don’t think he was thinking NFL at the time.

“But he had a great season and it’s incredible for him. But it has changed and it’s exciting. I’m excited. It’s a big opportunity. But it’s also a big challenge. It’s a big challenge for all the guys in the room.”

Hockenson soared to stardom last season as a third-year sophomore, winning the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top collegiate tight end. He was also picked eighth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, while Fant was also selected in the first round by the Denver Broncos and with the 20th pick overall as a third-year junior.

Wieting is now the only tight end on Iowa’s current roster who has a caught a pass in college. The former walk-on from Rockford, Ill., has three career receptions for 68 yards.

Wieting was among four Iowa players who met with the media on Tuesday to give a mid-summer update. He was joined by senior defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore and junior defensive backs Geno Stone and Matt Hankins.

Wieting was asked numerous times on Tuesday about dealing with the pressure that comes with trying to maintain Iowa’s high standards at tight end.

Iowa is the only school to have two tight ends both selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“That’s a really good honor to have to be deemed as tight end U,” said the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wieting. “But I don’t think there’s any extra pressure from that. I think there’s a standard of operation around here that you’re going to come in and you’re going to do work, you’re going to earn your spot, you’re going to earn your playing time. I think that’s really where guys improve.

“You show improvement from year one to year two and from year two to year three and so on and so on. And hopefully, by the time you’re a junior or a senior you’re playing your best football. And really that’s the goal. I believe I’ve done that. I believe that I’ve improved each year, and hopefully, it all comes together this season.”

The hope is that Iowa’s returning tight ends, which also include fourth-year junior Shaun Beyer and fifth-year senior Drew Cook, will compensate for their lack of game-time experience with their age and maturity.

“I think we’ve got a lot of talent in the room,’ Wieting said “We’ve got a lot of older guys, too. Drew and I, we’ve been around here five years and Shaun’s going on his fourth year. That’s a lot of experience in the room, and hopefully, as a group, we can put together a nice season.”

Beyer and Cook were both multi-sport stars in high school at Cedar Rapids Kennedy and at Iowa City Regina, respectively. Cook is also the son of former Iowa All-America tight end Marv Cook, but Drew came to Iowa as a quarterback.

He then switched to tight end during spring practice in 2017 and has since been waiting for his chance to contribute.

“I think they’re incredible dudes,” Wieting said of Cook and Beyer. “They’re really hard workers. I think they both have really high ceilings. They’re both great athletes. We all come in to work every day. We put in the work. We bring a good attitude. We’re enthusiastic. Really, now it’s just to put it all together. We’ve just have to put it all together and it’ll be there in the fall.”