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McCarney reminisces: The Hawkeyes’ 1981 defense

[ 0 ] November 21, 2011 |


Special to the Register

In 1981, Dan McCarney was the defensive line coach at the University of Iowa. He was a player and coach at Iowa for 19 years, before taking over as head coach at Iowa State University. He now is head coach at the University of North Texas.

His description of several members of the 1981 Iowa defense:

Andre Tippett, defensive end – “A third-degree black belt in karate. One of the most dominant players I’ve ever been around. It was no surprise to any of us as we watched him in his career, and especially that senior year, that he was going to go on and be a Pro Bowler in the NFL. Amazing athleticism. One thing about Tip now, don’t ever mess with his knees. If anybody ever thought about cutting him in practice, or getting around his knees, he would go berserk.”

Mark Bortz, defensive lineman – “One of the toughest kids who ever played the game. Ever. Mark it down, that’s legit. College or NFL, he’s one of the toughest guys who ever put on a uniform. One of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen is when he ran over Hayden Fry in practice. It wasn’t on purpose. He was running deep on a backside pass rush and Coach Fry had taken a knee to watch the offense, and he got run over. That showed me how tough Coach Fry was. I don’t know if he knew where he was at the time, but he bounced up and kept going.”

Pat Dean, nose tackle – “Gonzo. Unbelievable. He would not stand still between snaps. He was a joy to coach. He wasn’t playing with a full deck all the time, especially on game day, but you talk about energy, passion, toughness, pride, relentlessness. That’s how he played the game. And he would not sit still in between snaps. Didn’t matter if it was the first series of the game or the last series. He had to prowl and he had to move and he had to pace. That was his game. He was staying ready the whole time. He was an amazing football player. “

Jim Pekar, defensive lineman – “He had the best calves in college football. I’m 58 years old, and I might still be able to lift more weight than Jim Pekar could in his prime. But he had a unique ability to make plays. He had a major role in our defense. I think he had less talent than those other 10 starters on defense, but he was amazingly productive. He had a helluva senior year. He played his butt off. I’ll tell you what now, the guy was a player.”

Brad Webb, defensive end – “A great success story. You know the deal. He was a walk on who became a co-captain. He was one of the brightest, smartest guys. He was a good physical player, too. You weren’t going to step on the field with that defense unless you were physical. But you talk about a coach on the field, that was Packy Webb.”

Mel Cole, linebacker – “The Rev. He didn’t have the God-given talent that an Andre Tippett had, but there weren’t many more productive college linebackers than Mel Cole was that year.”

Todd Simonsen, linebacker – “The Raging Bill. Physical, and he would blow you up. I’ll never forget one day in practice. Barry Alvarez is coaching the linebackers, and I’m coaching the defensive line, and we’ve got to break up Pat Dean and Todd Simonsen. One of the biggest fights I’ve ever had to break up in my whole career – and it’s practice! That’s the edge they played with.”


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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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