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Willie Lowe family member says he may remain on team

[ 9 ] April 6, 2011 |

As one player hospitalized in January with a workout-related condition explores whether to remain with the Iowa football program, a university official said no other impacted players have requested transfers.

Willie Lowe, a senior-to-be defensive back from Cleveland, will weigh other opportunities to finish his college career, then most likely end up where he started, a family member said.

“If I had to guess right now, I’d say Willie goes through the process of seeing if there are other options, and then at the end of the day, sticking with the Iowa program,” Lowe’s uncle, Troy Fultz, said Wednesday after ESPN.com reported his nephew was considering a transfer. “That’s what Willie is thinking right now.”

Lowe, one of 13 players hospitalized earlier this year with the muscle condition rhabdomyolysis, requested to be released from his scholarship Tuesday, according to Iowa associate athletic director Fred Mims.

“We granted it,” said Mims, who also acknowledging that Lowe could remain a Hawkeye.

Mims said: “You always hear about the times when they actually follow through and transfer, but there are a lot of times when we grant a release, and they end up staying. That could be the situation with Willie.”

Lowe is the only known player who dealt with rhabdo to explore a transfer.

“It’s the only one I know about,” said Mims, who handles transfer requests.

Felicia Bernstine, mother of Hawkeye cornerback and rhabdo sufferer Jordan Bernstine, said the thought of leaving Iowa hasn’t crossed her son’s mind.

“We never even talked about that,” Felicia said. “Jordan has always been a dedicated Hawkeye.

“What happened to the guys was upsetting and disappointing, but it wasn’t enough to make us even think about transferring.”

Lowe did not return messages to The Des Moines Register on Wednesday, but earlier told ESPN.com, “I am still down about 20 pounds, and I am having headaches every few days.”

That’s why Lowe’s family will seek another medical opinion, although Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said on March 23 that all 13 rhabdo players had been “cleared medically to proceed forward.”

“Willie was cleared by the doctors at Iowa, but he’s still having some headaches,” Fultz said.

The players were hospitalized after undergoing a strenuous workout in late January. An investigation by the Iowa state Board of Regents and university absolved the program of blame, but recommended the workout be dropped.

A Register story late last month outlined, however, that the president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association said Iowa misused the workout that led to rhabdo — and raised concerns about conclusions in the internal report.

“We won’t do that exercise again,” Ferentz said during a March press conference.

Some players were in the hospital less than a week. Others, like Lowe, were bedridden seven days.

“Willie was probably the player who had it the worst — he was one of the last ones to get out of the hospital,” Fultz said. “He’s still not got his weight back up to where it was, so we’re going to get him checked out independently.”

Felicia Bernstine said Jordan has been practicing regularly.

“He lost weight, but he needed to lose some,” she said.

Fultz said the Lowe family is concerned about potential long-term effects.

“We know Iowa cleared the guys, but we’re just making sure (doctors) were straightforward,” Fultz said. “There were some psychological things that occurred — the fear of not knowing what was happening — and that’s understandable after being pushed to a level that exceeded your (workout) capacity.

“We just want to make sure. It hit some people harder than others. We’re just looking for some answers, because the investigation didn’t really get into why it happened.”

Veteran cornerback Shaun Prater, also hospitalized with rhabdo, speculated last week that a sudden strenuous workout three weeks after the Insight Bowl was a contributing factor.

“What caused it? Honestly, I think the three-week layoff,” Prater said. “We had a whole bunch of players trying to be competitive.”

Prater said he has practiced regularly since spring drills started. ESPN.com quoted Lowe as saying others have been slower to recover.

“Only a few players are back to full speed that I know of,” Lowe said. “Some said this wasn’t a big deal. But this was a big deal to me.”

Lowe missed five of the final six games last season due to injuries. He had eight tackles in eight games, and was not listed on the spring depth chart.

“We don’t have any ill will about Iowa at all,” Fultz said. “It was an unfortunate situation that happened. There was nothing malicious, and like I said, it would not surprise me if he ended up staying. Willie told me he’s considering that, but he wants to listen if there are options.”

Fultz said he conveyed that to Ferentz during a Monday conversation. Ferentz could not be reached for comment.

“Coach Ferentz was straightforward with me, saying that he’d like to see Willie finish his career at Iowa,” Fultz said. “He said he’d grant the release, but that he’d keep the door open if Willie wanted to stay on the team.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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