IOWA CITY, Ia. – As AC/DC’s “Back in Black” pulsated over the Kinnick Stadium sound system late Saturday morning, Ed Podolak grinned as his beloved Iowa football team prepared to take the field.
“This,” Podolak said, “is my favorite part of the day.”
As he’s done every season since 1982, the 66-year-old Podolak worked as the analyst on the Hawkeye Radio Network broadcast of No.24 Wisconsin’s 28-9 victory over the Hawkeyes. It was, and is, a labor of love.
Working alongside play-by-play voice Gary Dolphin since 1997, and Jim Zabel before that, Podolak gives fans a mixture of fandom, facts and the unvarnished truth.
“First of all you’ve got to be truthful, because the fans are watching the same game you are,” Podolak said. “If you try and paint a picture that’s not there, then you’re not being truthful.”
In the postgame wrap-up, Podolak was quick to point out that scoring just one field goal on Iowa’s first three possessions, all starting in Wisconsin territory, was a major factor in the outcome.
“When you get that kind of field position early, at home, especially against Wisconsin, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” he said.
Podolak doesn’t come to the booth with an armful of statistics. With a roster flipcard, a pair of binoculars and a Snickers bar within reach, and a small TV screen right above his head to watch replays, Podolak has everything he needs.
Football made him a star at the high school (Atlantic), college (Iowa) and NFL (Kansas City Chiefs) level. But he doesn’t talk over the head of his listeners with his keen Xs-and-Os knowledge of the game.
“It’s one thing to see a play developing,” Dolphin said. “It’s another to describe it on the air. You’re talking about a 10-year pro who can describe it so that an eighth-grader can understand it, a senior citizen can understand it, and a biology professor can understand. He transcends all mentalities of the game. And that is what I think is most unique about him.”
Podolak was on his game from the very first play, telling the listening audience that tight end Jake Duzey was lined up in the slot to try to take advantage of his speed.
Late in the first quarter, Podolak hollered, “Full blitz! Full blitz!” as Dolphin was calling the play. Iowa blew the play up, and Wisconsin had its third straight three-and-out of the game.
“How many times does that happen to Wisconsin?” Podolak said.
On the first play of the second quarter, with Wisconsin in possession at its own eight-yard line, Podolak predicted a play-action pass because the Badgers had the wind and were having trouble moving the ball on the ground. Quarterback Joel Stave promptly threw a play-action pass.
“We’re going to see them put the ball in the air,” Podolak said, not long before Stave got the Badgers on the scoreboard with a 44-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Pedersen later in the second quarter.
When Iowa faced a fourth-and-1 from the Wisconsin 35 in the third quarter, and Mark Weisman got stuffed for no gain, Podolak pointed out that two Badgers linebackers had rotated to the side of the line when Weisman went.
“They had more defenders than we had blockers,” Podolak said.
Podolak is the kind of security blanket any play-by-play man would love at his side.
“A lot of guys would be offended at being corrected,” Dolphin said. “I’m not. He is unlike any guy I’ve worked with.”
Podolak said his touch for the analytical part of the game was born on the gridiron.
“I think I have a big advantage because I played quarterback in college, safety in high school and was a running back and receiver in pro football,” Podolak said. “So I’m familiar with a lot of assignments.”
As a player with the Chiefs, Podolak and his quarterback, Len Dawson, always had good chemistry. One knew what the other was thinking. Podolak is still thinking his way through a game.
“I’ll let you in on a trade secret,” Podolak said. “Watch the guards (on the offensive line). They’ll lead you to the ball 90 percent of the time. Watch them and you can immediately go to see what the other action is.
“A lot of people get stuck just watching the ball, and you don’t see the big picture.”
Podolak does see it, which is why he is able to absorb and explain a play, or predict what might happen before the ball is snapped.
As Wisconsin drove down the field for a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes of Saturday’s game, a disappointed Podolak kept peppering listeners with perspective.
“That statistic will be lopsided,” Podolak said of the Badgers’ 218 rushing yards, a good chunk of them on that last drive. “And it shouldn’t be that way, the way they played.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football