Nearly three years after walking away from football, Brandon Wegher went looking for another opportunity at the game he loved.
Morningside College football coach Steve Ryan was maybe the one person willing to give it to him.
Wegher, one of the heroes in Iowa’s 2010 Orange Bowl win, will be back in the big-game spotlight Saturday when the fifth-ranked Mustangs square off against No. 2 Grand View in an NAIA Championship Series semifinal at Williams Stadium in Des Moines. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
“It’s been a fun year playing football again,” Wegher said. “I missed the game so much the last three years that I was away. Just being on the football field competing has been a great experience for me.”
Wegher, a former Sioux City Heelan star, was poised for a big career at Iowa after a breakout performance in 2009 that included 641 yards rushing and a school freshman record eight rushing touchdowns. During the Hawkeyes’ 24-14 win against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Wegher rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown.
That was the last that Iowa fans saw of Wegher, who left the team for personal reasons.
Wegher’s return has been marred several times after being ruled academically ineligible during stops at Oklahoma and Iowa Western Community College.
He’s also had several run-ins with the law with arrests for eluding police, public intoxication and domestic assault.
“I have pretty much put it behind me,” he said. “When people ask me, I just say that it’s my business.”
While he was away from the field, Wegher worked for a mining company and his dad’s construction business.
He kept feeling the itch to get back into football.
“There was not a day that went by that I thought about what I could have been doing,” Wegher said, “and where I could have been.”
Even though Wegher wanted back in football, it was hard to find the right fit.
“I had been away form the game for so long,” he said, “that I couldn’t get into any other level of football.”
Last December, he showed up at Ryan’s office. The two discussed school, life and football.
“We just really talked about what it would take for me to play here,” Wegher said, “and what the expectations were.”
Wegher has met those expectations and on the field. He has been a key contributor to the Morningside offense, rushing for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns.
In 11 games, he’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
“He’s got a great work ethic and has a great attitude and really has been enjoyable to have on the football team,” Ryan said.
Wegher declined to go into details about his past or why he left Iowa.
“I do regret leaving the game back when I was 19 years old,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes, and I’m just trying to be better as a person.”
Until this year, Wegher hadn’t played since the 2010 Orange Bowl.
Wegher said he can’t wait to be back on the big stage. The winner heads to the NAIA championship game Dec.21 at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga.
“I definitely can’t wait to play,” he said. “Anybody should be excited to play this time of year.”
What: NAIA Championship Series semifinal
Who: No. 5 Morningside (11-1) at No. 2 Grand View (12-0)
Where: Des Moines, Williams Stadium
For updates during the game, follow Register reporter Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) and columnist Bryce Miller (@Bryce_A_Miller).
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football