By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Nate Stanley had been answering questions from the media for about 20 minutes after this past Saturday’s 18-17 victory over Iowa State when I finally spotted an opening in the pack that was surrounding him.
By then, he probably had been asked some of the same questions over and over because that always happens in this kind of situation.
What I wanted to know is how it felt to be 3-0 as a starting quarterback against Iowa State because not many Iowa quarterbacks have achieved that milestone.
In fact, Stanley and Ricky Stanzi are the only starting quarterbacks for the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz to be 3-0 against the Cyclones, with Stanzi having pulled off the hat trick from 2008-10.
It’s a pretty big deal, but I should’ve remembered before asking the question that Stanley goes out of his way to avoid making anything that he does a big deal.
Football is a team sport and Stanley never lets the media forget it, and that’s a credit to him.
“It’s awesome,” Stanley said of being 3-0 against Iowa State. “But not really awesome in the selfish sense. It’s awesome to just be able to celebrate with my teammates. That’s the most special thing, being in that locker room and being able to hold up that trophy and seeing guys start to tear up. That’s what makes it special and that's what makes it so awesome to be a part of this team.”
Stanley said the word awesome four times in that one answer, but none of them had anything to do with him as an individual.
With Stanley, it’s always about the team, and when he does give individual praise, it’s always directed towards a teammate.
I can’t recall one time where Stanley has even come close to praising himself and that covers a lot of interviews with him being a three-year starter.
Stanley will make his 30th consecutive start when 3-0 Iowa faces Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 28 at Kinnick Stadium following the current by week.
So he has participated in close to 60 interviews if you combine his 29 post-game interviews with the 27 interviews that have occurred on the Tuesdays leading up to games.
There might have been a time or two when Stanley didn’t attend an interview, but I can’t recall any off the top of my head.
Stanley has been interviewed more than 60 times if you include bowl games, spring practices and media day events.
He is clearly more comfortable around the media these days, and sometimes, he will even let his guard down a little bit and smile or respond to a joke.
The Iowa media is now a bunch of familiar faces to Stanley and he seems more at ease while answering our questions.
But what hasn’t changed, and never will change, is Stanley’s unwillingness to talk about himself because he just isn’t comfortable doing it.
And that is part of what makes him a great leader, and a great teammate.
The starting quarterback already gets most of the attention because it is arguably the highest profile position in all of team sports.
Iowa’s starting quarterback, no matter who it happens to be, will always be requested for post-game interviews and for the weekly interviews on Tuesday.
The starting quarterback is sort of like a spokesperson for the team, and that’s how Stanley treats it in that he always focuses on the team and never on himself.
Stanley was asked to compare his performance this past Saturday to his first game against Iowa State in Ames in 2017 when he threw five touchdown passes and had 333 passing yards during a 44-41 overtime thriller. The game against Iowa State in 2017 was Stanley’s first start on the road.
Stanley wasn’t nearly as productive this past Saturday with no touchdown passes and 201 passing yards, but he didn’t make any excuses, or seem to care.
“It’s hard to compare that,” Stanley said. “You know, obviously, any time we win I’m going to say I don’t really care about how I did.
“Yeah, I missed some throws that I could have had, some decisions that I maybe could have made a little bit better. But we won, and I’m just happy to be able to say that we won and just happy to be able to celebrate with my teammates.”
Barring injury, Stanley will leave Iowa as one of the most productive quarterbacks in program history from a statistical standpoint. He is already third on Iowa’s career touchdown passes list with 58 and only needs 16 more to tie Chuck Long's school record.
The one area where Stanley has to improve is in the win-loss column, considering he is 10-9 against Big Ten opponents.
He also has to play better in close games on the road, and the victory over Iowa State was certainly a step in the right direction.
Stanley wasn’t as productive against the Cyclones this past Saturday as he was two years ago, but he might have thrown his best pass as a Hawkeye in Saturday’s game, which was interrupted for nearly three hours by two weather delays.
His 27-yard dart to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on third-and-long in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty in how Stanley threw it into a tight window at a pivotal time.
“I can’t say enough about what Nate’s doing now,” said Kirk Ferentz. “He’s more in control than he’s ever been since we’ve been around him.
“And the throw he made on that third-and-22, or third-and-25, whatever it was, was as good as I’ve seen him throw. That was a huge play. And it took two good players to make it and good protection on top of it. But standing on the sideline that was pretty impressive.”
Stanley, of course, praised everybody but himself for that play.
But you know he’s proud to have made that throw and to be 3-0 against Iowa State, and deservedly so.
Stanley is mostly just proud to be a Hawkeye because that represents more than himself.
He is similar to his head coach in that the team always comes before any individual acclaim.
It almost seems that Stanley was raised to be Kirk Ferentz’s quarterback because they are both soft-spoken and so quick to deflect praise.
That is a tribute to Stanley’s parents, Donita and Jay Stanley, for raising their son to be humble, appreciative and respectful.
The fact that he is also a talented quarterback is just a bonus.