IOWA CITY, Iowa – Unlike many of his teammates from Iowa, Jordan Canzeri didn’t grow up wishing to be a Hawkeye football player.
He actually gave it no thought because how can you think about something of which you are unaware?
Canzeri said Tuesday that he hadn’t even heard of the Iowa football program when some head coach named Kirk Ferentz called out of the blue to offer him a scholarship.
At first, I thought maybe that Canzeri was joking, but he was serious. He had made it almost all of the way through high school in Troy, N.Y. without ever hearing of Kirk Ferentz or the Iowa football team.
Canzeri had no clue that Iowa was in the Big Ten, so it wasn’t a big deal when Ferentz called to offer him a scholarship. Canzeri was so underwhelmed and unimpressed that he said thanks, but no thanks to Ferentz’s offer, thinking he would stick to his commitment to Villanova.
“He didn’t just jump in our laps, I can tell you that,” Ferentz said Tuesday.
That changed in a hurry, though, after Canzeri told his father about Ferentz’s offer. Canzeri’s father was well aware of Iowa’s place in the college football landscape. He shared what he knew about the Hawkeyes with his son and then strongly encouraged Jordan to call Ferentz back to accept his offer.
“I probably can’t say everything that he said,” Canzeri said of his father’s reaction to turning down Ferentz’s scholarship offer. “But he just let me know because he knew (about Iowa) and was, obviously, freaking out and he was like you need to call them back. You don’t understand, this is a big deal. This is exactly what you’ve been working for.
“So I called right back and sucked up to coach Ferentz.”
That was the start of a feel-good story that just keeps getting better and better.
The soft-spoken kid from upstate New York who hadn’t heard of the Iowa football team until his senior year of high school is now deeply immersed in the black and gold community as a record-breaking running back.
Canzeri enters Saturday’s game at Northwestern ranked third in the Big Ten in rushing with a 116.2 per-game average and with his team undefeated at 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten..
The 5-foot-9, 192-pounder is coming off his most productive game as a Hawkeye, rushing for 256 yards on a school-record 43 carries during last Saturday’s 29-20 victory over Illinois at Kinnick Stadium. Canzeri’s rushing total is the third highest single-game performance in school history behind Tavian Banks’ 314 yards against Tulsa in 1997 and Ed Podolak’s 286 yards against Northwestern in 1968.
And to think, if Canzeri’s father hadn’t used his parental influence, none of this probably would’ve happened. Iowa fans should be grateful that in Jordan Canzeri’s case, his father knew best.
With all due respect to Villanova, it’s not the same as Iowa when it comes to football. Iowa plays on the biggest stage as a power five school, whereas Villanova competes at the FCS level. Iowa also plays in bowl games on a regular basis and has a rich pipeline to the NFL.
Canzeri started learning about the Hawkeye tradition shortly after committing to Iowa. He also started hearing from Hawkeye fans from upstate New York shortly after picking Iowa.
“Now it’s pretty big, but before then I never saw anything Iowa in my area,” Canzeri said. “But it was just cool, once I committed I met several Iowa fans out there, and my father as well.
“And now, obviously, I have a lot of people from my school and area backing me up. And that’s nice and that’s cool just to have those people staying in touch and just caring about you as a person as well. It’s awesome to see.”
One of the neatest things about playing college football, or any college sport for that matter, is that a kid like Canzeri gets to discover a whole new world and make friends for life. It’s sort of refreshing that Canzeri grew up unaware of the Hawkeyes and most other college football teams because he was too busy just being a kid.
It wasn’t a case of him being sheltered or not liking football. Canzeri was passionate about football while growing up, but only as a participant and not as a spectator.
“I saw some college, but for me, I really loved just to play football and was always outside and everything,” Canzeri said. “So it wasn’t like an influence of seeing other people play. It was just that I loved the sport itself. I didn’t really know much of the big schools other than a few.”
Canzeri knows about the big schools now, and they certainly know about him.