IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa was clinging to a 10-0 lead when Northern Illinois lined up to try a 23-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
But Matt Bowen blocked it, LeVar Woods scooped it up and raced 87 yards for a Hawkeye touchdown to seal Kirk Ferentz’s first victory as Iowa coach in 1999.
“I’m not sure we could have won the game if not for that,” Ferentz said. “We were hardly a prolific outfit at that point. It was the only game that we won.”
Woods, a junior in 1999, never got to play in a bowl game for Ferentz but left a lasting impression with his coach.
“LeVar was a great team leader, a great player for us,” Ferentz said. “He carved out a really nice career in the NFL for seven years. A big part of the reason LeVar was able to have a nice career in the NFL was his commitment to special teams.”
Now Woods, now in his second season on Ferentz’s staff, is teaming up with Chris White to coach special teams at Iowa this season along with his duties with the linebackers. White comes from the Minnesota Vikings, where he was a special teams assistant the past four seasons. He’s also coaching the running backs. Graduate assistant Kelvin Bell is also working with special teams.
“Those three guys are doing an awful lot of work in the special teams area, and I really like what I’ve seen so far,” Ferentz said.
Special teams play was a strength of Ferentz-coached Iowa teams that won Big Ten titles in 2002 and 2004. That part of the game has slipped into neutral in recent seasons.
“The special teams here have been pretty good over the history of the program, and I think what Coach Ferentz wants to do is make sure the emphasis is back to where, you know, he always says this is how we win here,” White said. “We’re tough. We got the best strength coach (Chris Doyle) in America, special teams, the Chad Greenways of the world. We’re tough, smart, disciplined and play great special teams, and that’s why I’m here.”
Greenway got his chance to show the Iowa coaches what he could do through his play on special teams, then earned all-Big Ten honors and is now an NFL all-pro with the Vikings.
White and Woods are linked through the Priefer family. White worked with Mike Priefer, the Vikings’ special teams coordinator. Woods played for Priefer’s father, Chuck, a special teams guru in his own right. Now White and Woods are teaming up, putting their NFL experience to use and using spring drills to see who can contribute in competitive situations.
“We’re finding out a lot about the guys who can play in space and the guys who can catch the ball and who are not afraid to catch the ball,” White said.
As for his return of the blocked field goal for a touchdown in 1999, it’s a play that remains dear to Woods’ heart. In fact, he’s is trying to get a copy of the play so he can show it to his children when they’re old enough to appreciate it.
“It’s a play I’ll remember my whole life,” Woods said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football