For whatever reason, some college football programs are better at developing players at a certain position than others. It’s sometimes tough to explain, but some schools come to be associated with a specific position. For the tight end position, there is no better school than the University of Iowa. Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach of the Hawkeyes for over 20 years and practically made a living out of sending tight ends to the NFL. Admittedly, tight end isn’t the most glamorous position, but it’s hard to find a college that has developed more elite tight ends than Iowa. Here are five reasons why Iowa should be considered the one true “Tight End U.”
5. Brandon Myers
Myers might be one of the most overlooked and forgotten tight ends in Iowa history. As a senior, he was first-team All-Big Ten and was the third-leading receiver on a team that finished the season ranked 20th in the country. However, he was still overlooked by NFL teams, not being drafted until the 6th Round.
However, Myers went on to out-perform most 6th Round picks. Naturally, opportunities were in short supply early in his career. But by his fourth season, Myers was a regular starter in Oakland and racked up over 800 receiving yards for the Raiders. Ultimately, he played eight seasons in the NFL, falling just short of 200 catches and 2,000 receiving yards. Most teams would love to get that kind of production out of tight ends they pick in the 6th Round.
4. Scott Chandler
With great size and hands, Chandler made an instant impact at Iowa. As a freshman, he caught 24 passes on a team that went 10-2 and finished the season ranked in the top-10. Chandler only got better from there. In just three seasons, he did enough to rank second in school history in both receptions and receiving yards.
Unfortunately for Chandler, his pro career was slow to develop. He played in just 14 games and had one catch in his first four seasons. But he finally got a real chance to play with the Bills in 2011 and made the most of it. Over the next four seasons, he collected 17 touchdowns and averaged 528 receiving yards per season, eventually developing into a reliable tight end.
3. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant
The jury is still out on both Hockenson and Fant after their rookie seasons. However, the fact that both were drafted in the 1st Round in the same year is proof that Iowa is a special place for tight ends. There aren’t that many tight ends who are first-round material in the first place. The odds that one college could produce two in one year are astronomical.
Keep in mind that Hockenson and Fant were competing with one another for playing time and receptions at Iowa. Yet, Fant set the school record for touchdown catches by a tight end in 2017 while Hockenson won the Mackey Award in 2018. If at least one of them can blossom into a star in the NFL, it’ll add to Iowa’s resume as “Tight End U.”
2. Dallas Clark
Clark and Ferentz arrived at Iowa the same year and began the trend of the Hawkeyes producing elite tight ends. Iowa was just 1-10 in that first season, but by Clark’s senior season, they were 11-2 and undefeated Big Ten co-champions. He was also a unanimous All-American and Mackey Award winner that year.
Of course, Clark continued to excel in the NFL after the Colts drafted him in the First Round. For most of his 11 pro seasons, Clark was one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL. He made just one Pro Bowl appearance when he had over 1,100 receiving yards in 2009 but was one of the best tight ends of his generation.
1. George Kittle
Three seasons into his career, Kittle is already on his way to being the best tight end to ever come out of Iowa and perhaps the best tight end of his generation. Of course, his numbers at Iowa were modest because he wasn’t the only tight end in town, which is why he was only a 5th-round pick.
While overlooked initially, it only took until his second pro season for Kittle to set the NFL record for the most receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Kittle’s almost immediate success in the NFL is proof that even some of Iowa’s overlooked tight ends have star potential and that no college team develops tight ends like the Hawkeyes.