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Northern Iowa senior left tackle Jack Rummells, the FCS version of Brandon Scherff?

[ 0 ] August 27, 2014 |

He grew up in a small town in Iowa, stands 6-foot-5, weighs at least 300 pounds, excels as an offensive left tackle in college and is a beast in the weight room.

You’re probably thinking of Iowa senior Brandon Scherff because he fits that detailed description to a T.

But in this case, the person being referred to is Northern Iowa senior left tackle Jack Rummells, who is the FCS version of Scherff in many ways.

Both players will showcase their talent on Saturday when Iowa faces Northern Iowa in the season opener at Kinnick Stadium.

“I know Jack will hold his own on Saturday and he’ll play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” said long-time West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen, who coached Rummells in high school.

It’s impressive to think that perhaps the two best offensive left tackles in their respective divisions both grew up in small towns in Iowa, with Scherff being a Denison native.

“There is probably a strong possibility that is true,” Pedersen said.

Both players have been flooded with preseason all-America honors, but neither seems too excited about the attention, giving them something else in common.

“My whole goal coming in here, honestly, I thought coming from a 1A school that I’d have to work harder than any of these other kids,” Rummells said Tuesday. “So I just kind of kept my head down and just kept working this whole way.”

With everything Rummells and Scherff have in common, they were perceived differently as recruits coming out of high school.

Scherff was ranked as a 3-star recruit as a high school senior and had scholarship offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. He also made first-team all-state as a senior.

Rummells made first team all-state as a senior, but barely was ranked by anybody coming out of high school. Rummells actually was in disbelief when Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley offered him a scholarship after Rummells’ senior season.

“I really wasn’t trying to sell myself to that many people,” Rummells said. “UNI offered me a visit and right away they offered me a full ride and I was just kind of surprised at that because I hadn’t been trying to get recruited that hard.”

The fact that almost every school passed on Rummells, including Iowa, still befuddles Pedersen.

“To be honest to God, I don’t know because he has good feet and he has good size,” Pedersen said. “He’s intelligent. He picks the game up well. He was almost a 4.0 student in high school.

“It was a mystery to me all the way through high school. I’ve never understood how people missed the boat on Jack.”

Pedersen said at least one member of the Iowa coaching staff without being specific conceded that they probably misjudged Rummells’ upside.

“They have shown since Jack has gone to UNI that they probably missed one,” Pedersen said of the Iowa coaches.

But in fairness to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, it’s hard to argue with his success in identifying and developing offensive linemen, Scherff’s rise to stardom being the latest example.

What’s sort of refreshing about Rummells, though, is that he doesn’t seem to care about being under valued as a recruit, nor is he bitter about Ferentz’s lack of interest.

“Honestly, a lot of people use that to motivate them,” Rummells said. “I don’t think I’m one of them. I don’t really need that to motivate me. I just want to be the best I can be.”

Iowa senior defensive tackle Carl Davis, who is from Detroit, still could see why somebody in Rummells’ position would have a chip on his shoulder.

“I’m from Michigan and if I went to Eastern Michigan or one of the MAC schools or something like that and felt like I should have been offered by Michigan, there is a chip on my shoulder to show who I really am,” Davis said. “That’s how it goes. A lot of guys feel they have to prove themselves and you can’t blame them for that.

“Everybody wants to be a part of something like us, not trying to put praise on us, but this is the ultimate goal, playing Division I, Big Ten football. A lot of people from the Midwest want to play Big Ten football. That’s their goal.”

Davis wasn’t talking specifically about Rummells, but there is truth to what Davis said.

Many of Rummells’ teammates will have that chip on their shoulder on Saturday. They’ll use it as inspiration and to help unify against a more heralded and prestigious opponent.

Rummells just seems different, though.

The same kid who had no interest in promoting himself as a high school recruit now sees no reason in the wake of his success in college to be bitter or resentful about being passed over by Iowa.

Rummells easily could say I told you so, considering he wasn’t even asked to be a preferred walk-on at Iowa. But that wouldn’t fit his laid-back personality.

“He has no ego at all,” Pedersen said. “He’s just happy that he’s playing for UNI.”

Speaking of being happy, that’ll be Pedersen on Saturday as he watches Rummells and another former West Branch player, Iowa redshirt freshman linebacker Bo Bower, compete on the field. Bower came to Iowa as a preferred walk-on, but was recently put on scholarship.

“Every time I think of Jack Rummells I smile because he’s like Bo, he’s earned everything he has,” Pedersen said. “He’s just a West Branch boy who is enjoying his time at UNI, making a lot of new friends, developing his skills as a football player. I wish I had 100 kids like him. He’s outstanding.”

Rummells grew up around the West Branch football program, almost literally. His father, Larry Rummells, served as Pedersen’s offensive coordinator for nearly three decades before stepping down in order to have more time to watch Jack play in college.

“Honestly, it’s an amazing atmosphere growing up there,” Rummells said of the West Branch football program. “When I was kid I would just come to football practice instead of having maybe a baby sitter.”

Based on where he is today, it was time well spent.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or pharty@press-citizen.com

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Category: Big Ten, Hawkeye news, 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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