IOWA CITY, Iowa – I figured you were just like me and could use a pick-me-up in the wake of Tuesday’s tragic news about the death of former Iowa defensive back Tyler Sash at the age of 27.
We need to be reminded about the good things in life and about the positive impact of the human spirit.
That’s why I chose to write this column about Iowa senior running back Jordan Canzeri, who is expected to play a key role against Iowa State on Saturday in Ames.
However, Canzeri’s role on the field isn’t why I wrote about him.
Of course, it matters that he is one of Iowa’s top offensive weapons. But Canzeri is so much more than that.
I started noticing Canzeri’s special qualities after he fell behind junior LeShun Daniels on the depth chart this summer. Some seniors might have been upset with being passed on the depth chart by a younger player. But not once has Canzeri given any hint, at least publicly, that he resents the move or that he is being treated unfairly.
“He’s the real deal,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday of Canzeri. “He’s a genuine guy who cares about other people. He’s really been raised right. It started at home. He came to us as a great young man.”
That’s usually where it always starts, at home, surrounded by beloved family members. I’ve never met Canzeri’s parents, but if I ever was to do so, I’d congratulate them for raising a fine young man, who when healthy, is also a dynamic football player.
The fact that Canzeri finally is healthy is part of a list of things that are helping to fuel optimism. He finished with a career-high 90 receiving yards in last Saturday’s 31-14 victory over Illinois State, showing the kind of burst and wiggle that’s present when Canzeri is healthy.
He was plagued by injuries throughout last season, and for much of his Hawkeye career. That’s why it is so gratifying to see Canzeri, a 5-foot-9, 192-pound native of Troy, N.Y., now healthy as a senior.
“I’ve said this many times, the thing, Jordan’s story last year was he was never right,” Ferentz said. “He just never quite looked right other than a window here and a window there.
“Knock on wood, he’s been able to look like the guy we thought he would and could be as a senior.”
To say that the team comes first is one thing. But to back up those words with your actions is another.
With Canzeri, it’s always about the team. He would cherish a chance to start as a senior. But Canzeri trusts his coaches and respects his teammates, especially Daniels, who rushed for 123 yards against Illinois State last Saturday.
“Well, both of them are just top-shelf guys,” Ferentz said when asked about Canzeri accepting his role with Daniels. “They’re first-rate, first-class. They’ve got their priorities, I think, totally in the right place.
“They both have competed hard out there on the field, and really it’s kind of interesting and I think they both realize we’re going to need both of them, and they both really complemented each other well the other day.”
Canzeri’s team-first attitude was on display Tuesday when he was asked by a reporter if he felt a lot of confidence coming off his performance against Illinois State.
“I would just say the confidence that I have is just because of the impact our whole offense had,” Canzeri said. “And then the fact that, even though we all had a good game, there is still a lot of things we let slide and a lot of improvement that we can make.”
That’s exactly how a senior leader should answer that question. You start by including all your teammates in the answer and then you challenge them to get better.
Character building through community service is major part of the experience for an Iowa football player. It’s up to each player to decide how seriously they will take it.
Canzeri has embraced that part of being a Hawkeye since he stepped foot on campus. He has done extensive volunteer work and reached out to those less fortunate whenever the opportunity has presented itself.
If you hear about a group of Iowa players who visited kids in a hospital, chances are Canzeri was part of the group.
It just never seems to be about him. We’d all like to be that unselfish, but most of us fall dreadfully short.
Ferentz told a story on Wednesday about a friend of his who saw Canzeri commit an act of kindness outside of Kinnick Stadium.
“I won’t give you the details, but somebody referenced a story either early last year or the year before that, but just something he did coming out of the stadium after he had crossed the street where nobody knew who he was,” Ferentz said. “A friend of mine witnessed it.
“To that point, to me that’s really doing something, not the stuff for show or when people are watching or when somebody is videoing and all that stuff, which is so prevalent in this day and age. I’d like to think he’s growing certainly, but he’s just a guy that thinks right. He cares about others.”
Canzeri has rushed for over 1,000 yards as a Hawkeye, but statistics tell just a small part of his story. He’s a talented running back, but even a better teammate and person.
I’ve heard Canzeri talk enough over the years, and I’ve heard others talk enough about Canzeri over the years to know that he’s genuine. What you see with Canzeri is what you get, and that’s the ultimate teammate.
“When you’re talking football team, because football teams are probably the biggest team that you can find anywhere, at least in sports, having people like that is so critical,” Ferentz said. “That’s how you develop teamwork is having people that really understand what it’s all about. Being a good teammate is just putting everybody else ahead of you, and he lives that every day from everything I can tell.”
Being a good teammate is just being Jordan Canzeri.