By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Senior Day will look the same on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, but the circumstances will be different, because for some of the 16 seniors being recognized, it might not be their final home game as an Iowa football player.
Some of the seniors, such as cornerback Riley Moss and receiver and return specialist Charlie Jones, might take advantage of the extra year of eligibility that is being offered due to the global pandemic and choose to return for the 2022 season.
“I came into the season open minded and I’m staying open minded until the end of the season,” Moss said Tuesday. “We have a lot of work to be done yet.
“I have it in the back of my head just to be mentally prepared. I’m excited for Senior Day and I’m mentally prepared for it to be my last time. But if it isn’t then it isn’t. I’ll get another shot. So at the end of the season, I’ll kind of get a feeling if I’m going to go or stay.”
There is no rush to make a final decision right now.
A career in the NFL obviously would be the ultimate goal for someone like Moss, who has started since he was a freshman.
But Moss, right now, probably has no clue where he sits in the eyes of NFL scouts and executives, and he still has at least three games remaining this season to help his cause.
He also has missed three games this season due to a knee injury, and that could factor into whether the Ankeny native decides to return.
Moss might learn after doing some research that another season in college would improve his NFL stock.
Whatever the case, he doesn’t have to decide anytime soon. His only football-related focus should be on getting his knee completely healthy in preparation for Saturday’s game against Illinois.
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College student-athletes have endured a lot over the past 20 months, and have had to make sacrifices like never before due to the pandemic and the extra year of eligibility is only fair under the circumstances.
Jones, meanwhile, is in the midst of having a breakout season this fall, and his success could be a factor in his decision.
A former transfer from Buffalo, who came to Iowa as a walk-on in 2019, Jones is now one of the top punt and kick returners in the Big Ten, and he is also tied for fourth on the team with 16 catches for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s been a long road,” Jones said Tuesday. “It hasn’t always been easy. I still haven’t made a decision yet on whether or not to come back.
“It’s crazy to be out on Senior Night. It feels like it flew by. But I’m excited to be here and I’m really happy to be with these guys. This is a great senior class, so I’m excited about this week.”
Offensive lineman Kyler Scott is a fifth-year senior and a multi-year starter. But even he could return for a sixth season if he so chooses.
“I think it goes into just how your body feels, and how everyone else at your position is looking,” Schott said.
Asked when he plans to make a final decision, Schott didn’t give a time.
“I think about if the coaches want you to come back and how I feel personally, if it’s my choice and stuff like that,” he said.”
Schott said he hasn’t thought much about whether he will return next season.
“No. Not really. I’m just focusing on every game this season and haven’t really thought about next year.”
When reminded that he would also be in school for a sixth year should he choose to return, Schott said:
“I know. That’s the tough part. I’ve already graduated last year. So, I’m just kind of taking random classes right now. I don’t know if I can find enough classes to take two more semesters.”
Schott already has his degree in criminal justice, but he isn’t sure what path he wants to pursue. He grew up wanting to be a police officer and still is considering that career.
But his mother also works in the juvenile court system and Schott might want to follow in her footsteps.
Or maybe he will ultimately decide that he wants to give the NFL a chance. Though probably a long shot to make the NFL due to his size, Schott also was considered a long shot when he came to Iowa as a walk-on in 2017, and yet, he will leave as a multi-year starter on the offensive line.
Senior Day is always a special moment that the players who are being recognized will cherish forever.
But Saturday’s event will be different just because of the circumstances caused by the pandemic.
Kirk Ferentz was asked at his weekly press conference on Tuesday when he plans to meet with the seniors who are uncertain about whether they will return. Ferentz said he spoke with some of the seniors about this topic during Iowa’s bye week in October.
“And we’ll talk more specifically once the season is over,” Ferentz said. “December, there’s all kinds of time in December to start thinking a little bit more vividly about that or concretely about that. And it’s almost just kind of get the temperature back in, whenever that was, October. Now we’ll talk a little bit more in December.”