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Will Brian Ferentz follow in his father’s footsteps?

[ 0 ] August 9, 2014 |
The coaching path of Brian Ferentz, left, is treading on similar ground as that of his father, Kirk, at least for now. (HawkCentral)

The coaching path of Brian Ferentz, left, is treading on similar ground as that of his father, Kirk, at least for now. (HawkCentral)

Kirk Ferentz didn’t set out to become a head football coach for a major university.

It just sort of happened.

“I never had that dream,” said Ferentz, who is entering his 16th season as the Iowa football coach. “It’s not like I had a master plan.”

Kirk’s oldest son, Brian Ferentz, doesn’t have a dream or a master plan to be a head football coach, either. Brian said he’s too busy living in the moment as a 31-year old husband, father and coach of the Iowa offensive line to think beyond the next practice.

“I think if you worry about those things you’re not going to do your job as well as you can,” Brian Ferentz said. “I think it’s healthy to have aspirations. I think what you’re trying to do if you’re in charge or even if you’re a position coach, you want to surround yourself with people that at least have a little bit of aspiration and some motivation to get better.

“And a lot of times if you continue to improve, sometimes, you out grow things and that all happens. But I’d be lying to you if I said I spend a lot of time worrying about that stuff.”

Brian Ferentz is exactly where his father was at the age 31; in the early stages of being married, raising a family and coaching the Iowa offensive line. Kirk Ferentz coached the Iowa offensive line for nine seasons under Hayden Fry from 1981-89, helping Iowa win two Big Ten titles before becoming the head coach at Maine for three seasons.

Kirk cherishes the opportunity to work with his son, but not to the point of being nostalgic. The fact that Brian has the same job that Kirk had at the same stage in his life is a topic for later.

“I never thought that far down the road about it, maybe when I retire and get old I’ll think about all that stuff,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I’m just happy for the way his career has gone.”

“Not to sound like a proud dad, but the big thing with all of our kids is whatever they choose to do, they need to go out and work at it and maybe get beat up a little bit. That’s part of life. We all go through that. And he’s done that. And he’s going get beat up more. We’ve got more coming here when we start.”

Brian Ferentz has endeared himself to Iowa fans with his passion and his willingness to change with the times. Brian often gets mentioned on social media as a possible successor to his 59-year old father, whose contract runs through the 2019 season.

In addition to living nearly half of his life in Iowa City and being a former Iowa offensive lineman, Brian also spent three seasons coaching with the New England Patriots from 2008-11 before returning to his alma mater.

His father’s influence might have helped Brian get the job with the Patriots, but Brian’s performance helped him stick with the organization. He joined New England’s staff as a scouting assistant and then was promoted to offensive assistant the next year.

“Football is very humbling,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Coaching is very humbling. But he’s paid his dues. He’s worked hard. And he’s been around really good people. And that’s all you can ask for.”

“One of my daughters is a teacher. If you’re around good people that can be good mentors and good teachers, that’s a good thing. I think whatever profession you’re in, I think that’s what you hope happens. I think he’s fortunate he’s had that in his coaching career.”

Despite all the time they spend together, Kirk Ferentz said he never talks with Brian about his future in football or about whether he has a desire to be a head coach.

“He may; I’ve never asked him that,” Kirk Ferentz said. It’s just one of those things. But to me the objective is to try and have a job that you really enjoy and is gratifying.”

Brian Ferentz mostly avoided the head coaching question at media day this past Monday.

“I try not to worry too much about what I will be doing in a year or two years or three years,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about what I’ll be doing in a year or two years or three years.

“But what I always try to do is bring it back focusing on whatever my task is right now because I just feel that if I worry about things from a personal standpoint, what I have to do what I don’t have to do, I’d be taking away from the team. And that’s one thing I don’t ever want to do.”

Since climbing aboard with his father, Brian has helped to usher the Iowa program into a new era of social media. Brian has over 14,000 followers on Twitter and he isn’t afriad to speak his mind, including once tweeting his frustration with the game-day experience at Kinnick Stadium.

Brian also has a gift for gab, whereas his father is more guarded and predictable while dealing with the media.

“I think our personalities are very different,” Kirk Ferentz said. “There is some commonality obviously, but our personalities are probably different. Young people are real smart right now and tech savvy and all that jazz.

“And then he’s had the benefit of working with the Patriots for three years. It was a really good training school.”

Kirk Ferentz was 26 when he coached in first game for the Hawkeyes against Nebraska on Sept. 12, 1981. Iowa began its improbable journey to the 1982 Rose Bowl that day by upsetting the Cornhuskers 10-7 at Kinnick Stadium.

Brian was 29 when he made his Hawkeye coaching debut against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1, 2012, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Hawkeyes hung on for an 18-17 victory, but only won three more games that season while finishing 4-8.

Iowa doubled its win total from the 2012 season by finishing 8-5 overall last season. The offensive line played a major part in the resurgence, adding to Brian Ferentz’s popularity.

A January report said Brian Ferentz would leave his father’s staff to become the offensive line coach for the Houston Texans and new head coach Bill O’Brien. Brian Ferentz and O’Brien worked closely together in New England.

However, Brian Ferentz silenced that rumor in April.

“As far as things like that, I never made a public comment, and the reason was very simple: There was no need to make a public comment,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’m the offensive line coach of the University of Iowa, and I’m very happy to be the offensive line coach of the University of Iowa. I have a great job.”

Brian did comment publicly in April about his senior left tackle Brandon Scherff, calling him the best offensive lineman in college football. Scherff considers himself lucky to have Brian and Kirk Ferentz overseeing his development. Kirk often works with the tackles during practice, while Brian handles the guards and center position.

“It’s always nice to learn from the best,” Scherff said.

Brian said he doesn’t a have desire at this time to be a play-caller. Third-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis currently has that responsibility.

“If you do your job as well as you can do it, you probably always will have the opportunity to do something else if you choose to,” Brian Ferentz said. “But I’ll tell you right now, I like it when Greg Davis calls the plays a lot better, Shoot, he’s the moron and I’m not.

“And I always think that’s a little bit misguided because the one thing you have to respect about a guy like Greg or a guy like (defensive coordinator) Phil Parker or my dad, they’re always going to take responsibility because they’re in a leadership position.”

Brian and his father are both quick to say how fortunate they are as coaches. Both make a very nice living and enjoy the people they work with on a daily basis.

“That’s the story of my career,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I’ve been around so many good people, not just the head coaches and marquee names.

“That’s a big part of life is being around people you can learn from and it’s a great help when you can have that.”

It also helps to do something every day that doesn’t feel like a job.

“The easiest part about what we do is we get to do something we love every day,” Brian Ferentz said. “And it’s never work. And I’ve heard coaches talk about hours that they work. I think that’s silly. I don’t think we ever really go to work. It’s the greatest thing in the world.”

Brian said the only real negative about his job besides losing is the demands that it puts on his family. Brian and his wife, Nikki, have a young daughter named Presley.

“I think that’s the hardest part that we do and that’s what I spend the most time worrying about, not necessarily where I’m going to be in five years, but how can I do the job that I have right now as well as I can do it,’ Brian said. “And on top of it, try to be a decent husband and a decent father, although, I can tell you my wife is probably glad that the season has started because she can finally watch the shows that she likes to watch and she doesn’t have to listen to me.”

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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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