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Harty: C.J. Fiedorowicz emerges as a force

[ 2 ] November 19, 2011 |

Iowa sophomore tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has a message for all the fans that wondered why his emergence as a go-to player took so long:

“A lot of it was on me,” Fiedorowicz said after Saturday’s 31-21 victory over Purdue.

Looking in the mirror was first step in Fiedorowicz’s climb up the depth chart. His performance on Saturday, which included three catches for 31 yards and one touchdown, was the latest example of him becoming an all-around tight end and a valuable weapon on offense. All three of his catches came on third down and resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.

Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz poses during Hawkeye football media day on Friday, August 5, 2011. (Press-Citizen/ Benjamin Roberts)

Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz poses during Hawkeye football media day on Friday, August 5, 2011. (Press-Citizen/ Benjamin Roberts)

Catching the ball was never a problem for Fiedorowicz, who was ranked among the top high school tight ends in the country as a senior in 2009. He also passed the eye test thanks to his chiseled 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame.

Where he struggled is with the less-glamorous things like blocking and busting his butt in practice on a regular basis. Fiedorowicz said he struggled with those things as a true freshman because he was cocky and he didn’t put forth the right kind of effort mentally or physically.

“I was lazy,” Fiedorowicz said. “Some days I would practice and I’m just like, ‘I don’t want to practice. I’m just going to jog through stuff.’

“And that’s why they didn’t put me out there. They didn’t trust me. They didn’t think I was going to put my full effort into everything. And that’s my fault. But I’ve got the chance now and I’m running with it.”

Fiedorowicz is proof that a player has to earn what he gets at Iowa because it won’t just be handed to you regardless of how many stars were next to your name coming out of high school.

And as a tight end, if you don’t block, you don’t play at Iowa, even if it means sitting behind a walk-on, which Fiedorowicz did until he recently moved ahead of junior tight end Zach Derby on the depth chart.

“You’ve got to be a double threat,” Fiedorowicz said. “You can’t just catch the football. You’ve got to be able to block, too, because if they put me in to a throwing situation then they’re going to know we’re passing the ball.

“So if I know how to block and catch then that makes you a well-rounded tight end.”

Fiedorowicz’s quest to become a well-rounded tight end began to hit stride during Iowa’s bye week in early October.

He played sparingly at tight end behind Derby and senior Brad Herman in the first four games.

“I’ll go back to the bye week I think is really when he started to ascend a little bit and started to look like a guy who could really play well in the Big Ten,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday’s victory, which improved Iowa’s record 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. “It’s a process for every player. It happens at different times for different guys.”

What made Fiedorowicz’s situation different is that some fans just assumed that he would pick up in college where he left off in high school.

It was considered a match made in Hawkeye Heaven; a big strapping tight end with meat hooks for hands playing for a school that’s known for producing well-rounded tight ends.

The timing also couldn’t have been better with former Iowa all-Big Ten tight end Tony Moeaki having used up his eligibility in 2009.

But then reality set in. Fiedorowicz wasn’t high school anymore.

“In high school people wanted to talk to me,” said Fiedorowicz, who is from the tiny northern Illinois town of Johnsburg. “And then I got here and I was like, whoa, an average guy.”

The low point for Fiedorowicz came during the week Iowa played at Michigan last season. He was so depressed that he called his mother looking for sympathy.

“I called home actually crying one time,” Fiedorowicz said. “I was like, `mom, this is so tough I’ve never been through anything like this.’

“But after talking to her that kind of settled me down and I just went back to work the next day, focused and just finished out the year. And I learned a lot of things.”

Fiedorowicz said he never seriously thought about transferring to another school, but it did enter his mind as a freshman. He originally committed to Illinois, but switched his allegiance to Iowa during the 2009 season when Iowa was in the process of finishing 11-2 overall.

“I was homesick my freshman year,” Fiedorowicz said. “You’re frustrated. You think (about leaving) but I never was going to. It ran through my head, but I knew I wouldn’t.”

Fiedorowicz could’ve made excuses and blamed the coaches for his rocky transition or he could’ve taken it upon himself to do something about it.

It’s now obvious that Fiedorowicz chose to do the latter.

“I kind of made a decision that I was sick of just sitting on the sideline with all this work I was putting in,” Fiedorowicz said. “And I started to do all I could to get playing time.”

And now he’s showing signs of being Iowa’s next force at tight end.

“We’ve all seen the talent,”said Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, who passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. “You play catch with him and he can pop the ball if he wants to. He’s got incredible hands and he’s a great runner and he’s got great size.

“And now if he can get everything going mentally he can play fast and he’s a great weapon out there for us throwing and blocking.”

You notice that Vandenberg said throwing and blocking. For an Iowa tight end, you can’t do one without doing the other.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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