IOWA CITY, Iowa – Nearing the end of his second year as an Iowa receiver, Jay Scheel is proof that you don’t have to be a star to stay relevant. Or in his case, even a starter.
Scheel still hasn’t even caught a pass for Iowa, and yet he remains a hot topic with fans and with the media.
There is a belief that at some point the light will turn on for Scheel at that stardom awaits him. That belief has gained momentum this spring thanks to some strong endorsements from Iowa receivers coach Bobby Kennedy earlier this month and from Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis on Wednesday.
Kennedy fueled the hype by saying Scheel has had some "wow moments" in practice this spring, while Davis praised Scheel on Wednesday for lifting his game to a new level in recent practices.
“Jay Scheel has really taken a jump over the last, probably three or four practices now and has kind of gotten himself into the mix where he can play a couple different positions,” Davis said. “I think he’s finally healthy for the first time and he’s playing with some confidence.
“So I feel good about that.”
Scheel isn’t quite sure how to feel about all the hype. He was quick to tell reporters again on Wednesday that he still hasn’t done anything significant on the field in college.
It almost seemed that Scheel was trying to temper our enthusiasm.
“It’s definitely motivation,” Scheel said of the hype. “But I haven’t really proved anything on the field yet. So it’s kind of coming out of nowhere. But all I can do is just work.
“All I can do is just control myself and control what I do on the football field. And if that compels people to say whether it be good stuff or bad stuff, they just say what they want to say.”
Scheel said the same to reporters at media day before the start of last season. He was a hot commodity at the time because he was listed on the two-deep depth chart as the backup to Matt VandeBerg at wide receiver.
Last season never materialized for Scheel, though, as he made no catches as a redshirt freshman.
It made sense that Scheel was redshirted as a true freshman in 2014, considering he had surgery on both knees during his senior year at Union High School in LaPorte City. He also was learning a new position after playing mostly quarterback in high school.
But for him to stay buried on the bench last season was harder to explain, even for Scheel.
“I’m not 100-percent sure,” Scheel said when asked if there were other factors besides health that kept him on the bench last season. “It’s up to the coaches to make those calls. All I can do is just go out and work and show what I can do.”
Scheel has the right attitude and the right approach to playing a team sport. He seems humble and hungry to contribute.
It’s hard enough changing positions from high school to college. But to do it at the highest level of college football is a daunting task.
Rarely, if ever, was there a better athlete on the field than Scheel in high school. He could dominate his opponent just on physical ability alone.
Very few have that luxury in college.
“Everybody definitely is really good in college,” Scheel said. “Every day you have to bring it no matter what on each and every play because, obviously, everyone on this team was probably one of the best players on their football team in high school.”
Fans will get to see the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Scheel on Saturday as Iowa concludes spring drills with an open practice at Kinnick Stadium.
He is healthy and much stronger than he was in high school after nearly two years of training under Iowa strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle.
What hasn’t changed since high school is Scheel’s popularity. Some believe that he has stardom written all over him.
“It’s all good and well to get mentioned,” Scheel said. “But you can’t think about that kind of stuff because if you think about that kind of stuff, it can get to your head. And that’s when you’re not really thinking about playing the game.”
That’s the best way for Scheel to approach what could ultimately be a breakthrough season for him. He doesn’t have to worry about fueling the hype because enough people already are doing that for him.