Newly hired offensive-line coach Tim Polasek was officially introduced in Iowa City on Thursday, and he answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of his press conference.
Tim Polasek: I’m super excited; it’s a word you’ll hear me use quite often. To be bringing my wife, Jill, to Iowa City. This was something that came up on the radar here early January. To coach in the Big Ten is one thing, it’s a phenomenal conference, but to be at a place with the people that are here at Iowa, always striving to do it the right way all the time is a heck of an honor, and I’m super excited to be here.
I do want to give special thanks to former players at North Dakota State, who laid it on the line every day and did everything we ever asked of them. Without their effort level and the things that they executed on the field over the last 11 years or 10, 11 years, I wouldn’t be here, and I really want to thank them.
Q. You have to be a secure person to come here and coach offensive line when you have Kirk and Brian and their legacy. What made you want to do that and come here and coach that position?
Polasek: Why wouldn’t you want to is the better question. I mean, an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks here. And, quite frankly, when you talk about the top offensive lines of the country, an award doesn’t give you that status. This is a reputation thing that’s been here for a long time.
So I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow from several guys upstairs that really understand the position. I’ve always been of the mindset that I’m going to try to create uncomfortable situations for the players, so why would that be any different for a coach that’s trying to move forward and do great things.
So super excited about the offensive line. I know I haven’t coached it before. But three years ago I wasn’t an offensive coordinator either. So we’ll just keep meeting these challenges head on.
You know, with an extremely good work ethic, a passion, and the want-to, I think anything is attainable. And I really am encountering a challenge just knowing that I have a good teaching background, and I think we can get those five, six, seven, eight guys to come together to play hard and do what they’re supposed to do.
Q. What about Chris Doyle, have you met him yet? And how important is it to have a strength and conditioning coach like that specially on the offense and defensive line?
Polasek: You can’t say enough about the job any strength coach does in the upper midwest. Especially when you’re valuing education and all those things that go into recruiting, it’s huge. Because we’re always going to be a developmental program here the way I understand it.
At North Dakota State, they will always be a developmental program. So when you bring a 6-foot kid, and he’s 242 pounds, and you ask that strength coach, we need this guy to be 290 by the time we get to spring ball, is it doable? Heck, yeah, it is. The kid’s got to eat, and we’ve got to be in the weight room and all those things.
Coach Doyle has been phenomenal. One of my most memorable moments about the interview process was sitting across from him and saying, okay, this is the top guy in the country. And to be in that same room among the coaches who were in there, and for him to enter the interview for two or three hours was really neat. I have the utmost respect.
I know that Iowa has been founded on that idea of recruiting some kids that have some length. The ability to grow and function alley move better by the time they get through the program, just, my hat’s off to him. He’s done a great job, and we won’t devalue his importance. He’s huge. I mean it. As important a person in the program as anybody.
Q. You’ve had quite a journey in your coaching career getting here. Including, did you really sell a Golf Club to pay for gas to get from North Dakota?
Polasek: Yeah, one of my old bosses is in the back here, Mr. Taylor. He’s probably hoping you don’t get into a bunch of the stories. But, I did. Quite frankly, I got a call from Coach Craig Bohl who has been a major mentor of mine along with Chris Klieman through this whole thing.
It was so interesting, because when I got the phone call to come interview at North Dakota State I was just getting out of the woods in Central Wisconsin from a day of logging. About 12Â° or so, and he had, you know, “Is this Tim Polasek the football coach?” And I said, ‘It’s Tim Polasek the football coach and logger.” So at that time I was three days a week I was recruiting for a Division III school, UW Stephens Point, and three days a week I was logging. I mean, cutting timber down and doing it all.
Actually, something that’s really helped me in my career, just work ethic, and, man, those people have earned, women and men across the world in the midwest that are out there working and don’t get to coach football. I mean, man they do it.
So Coach says when can you come over here? I said how long is it? How far is it? I don’t know where Fargo is. He said, eight hours. I said, I can be there in eight-and-a-half. So two days later I drove out there, and when I came back I didn’t really have the means to get back out to Fargo. So I had the means to get a really good driver the summer before, and so I sold it to get enough gas to come back.
The really cool part of that story — and it just comes back to people — Iowa, Wisconsin, a guy purchased that driver and he mailed it right back to me right away. So it was kind of a running joke that he would have given me the money regardless. But that’s a true story.
Q. Do you have a say in how the running game looks or have you gotten to that point yet?
Polasek: I know how it looks. We’re going to kind of do what we do. We’re going to have an uncommon in finish about what we’re doing. Schematically, schematics are schematics. It really comes down to hitting people, moving the point of attack. We definitely want to displace the line of scrimmage.
Whether it’s the inside zone or outside zone, a little bit of pin and pull and some power is neither here nor there. But, yeah, I’m well aware. I’ve really been impressed about how Iowa stays true to who they are in the run game, and are still able to be super productive most days out there.
Q. Must be an interesting dynamic to come into the interview room as an offensive coordinator that pretty much ran right around Iowa’s defense?
Polasek: That one went pretty good for us. But sometimes you come out on top and whatever. Our kids got to the fourth quarter, and some kids made some plays. By no means was I going in there thinking that in the interview process, that I had known something they didn’t know.
But I did feel like it was an opportunity to potentially answer some questions of some things that we did during the game, and some of those things came up, some didn’t. You know, it was really fun coming into the interview process, being able to speak on behalf of all 11 guys on offense. That’s one thing that’s neat about being a coordinator is you are now in charge of the offensive staff. You are in charge and responsible for how those guys perform.
What I’m talking about there is is there a discipline? Is there a finish that’s uncommon? Those are the things that were most fun about being a coordinator. It was really hardly about calling plays, to be honest with you.
Q. Very few people have this on their resumÃ©, but you have coaching fullbacks on your résumé. What did you learn coaching fullbacks, and have you taken that with you, because Iowa has like 90 fullbacks.
Polasek: Yeah, I was fortunate, I couldn’t even tell you the years now but when I was at Northern Illinois I coached the tight ends and fullbacks, and then for a three or four-year stretch at North Dakota State I coached that position as well.
It’s one of those things that we took a great deal of pride in having a fullback, and being able to set some hard angles and try to get leverage on the defense and so forth. I think those kids are some of the neatest people in the world. I mean Lee Vandal, Tyler Roehl, Andrew Bonnet, I could, this Brock Robbins kid is going to be a good player. I mean, those guys. You talk about putting your face mask down the heart of some guys over and over again.
We actually started putting a hit chart on them at practice at North Dakota State because we were concerned with stingers and so forth. There’s not really a position on the field, maybe besides the O-line in some places that that’s underappreciated. Man, it’s an ugly job.
But I’ll say this: A lot of kids that I’ve coached are my favorites. But those guys will always have a special place in my heart. They’re setting the tone a lot of times. The biggest thing is they’re getting a running start. I’ve seen some swing and misses too, and that’s OK.
Q. Coming back, is it nice to know you don’t have to go from scratch? You have some guys to work with and know what’s going on already?
Polasek: Yeah, I think so. My major goal in the next 48 hours and most of it in this office, is to get to know these kids, number one, on paper, which covers half of it. Number two, try to match some film up. Then just get them in front. I just want to get to know these guys, what makes them tick.
To be honest with you, I’m not going to read something and remember it. I’ve got to get to know guys. That’s what being in the weight room with them, talking to Coach Ferentz. Talking to Coach Brian Ferentz and having an understanding of what makes these guys tick because it’s important that we reach, everybody in that room that gives great effort. I don’t care if they’re experienced or not, they’ll be coached the same and the expectation level will be the same.
So one of the things that I look forward to is the first time I do wings and ribs at my house with my wife and we have those big guys over. The cost of living just went up when you have those guys.
Yeah, I think it’s going to be; haven’t talked about that a lot. Having gotten that question, I think it’s a great question. Not only are they great coaches in the O-line here, some real good experience, but I think some of the best teachers early on are going to be some of the veteran players or can be. And that should be the case all the time.
Q. You look at your background which is similar to Kelton in some ways. Salt of the earth, deep roots in football, built your way up. What did you learn and what did you take away from your time in Concordia and growing up? And how does that apply to the coach and person you are today?
Polasek: My initial reaction is to say there are good coaches at every level. Unfortunately, today is the day of the agent, this, that and the other thing. People don’t go through the rigorous process that Coach has laid out here. So maybe a D-III guy gets a shot. I think that’s pretty cool.
I’ve crossed paths on the way up with a lot of good football coaches, whether it was UW-Stevens Point, where John Mish taught me recruiting, find an angle. How to recruit. Then you move on and go to North Dakota State, and you’re in the back room and you’re sleeping on the floor because you make $6,000 a year, and it is what it is.
And Pat Perles teaching you about confront and demand every day, and keep doing that until, man, we push through, you know. So I never would trade my path for anything. I really look back now and there’s nothing more. It still makes me grin or gives me appreciation to be in the Hall of Fame at Concordia as a quarterback, I hold that pretty near and dear. It’s pretty cool senior year to have some control of the offense and things like that. Just being fascinated with that.
Best football player I’ve been around was a zero-star guy. Nobody recruited him. And he was the second pick in the NFL Draft. You know, so I think people come in all shapes and forms. I appreciate everybody I’ve come across. We don’t have enough time today to thank all those people. But they know who they are, and I stay in strong communication with everybody.
Q. Where do you feel comfortable recruiting, and where have you recruited?
Polasek: Yeah, my primary area has been Wisconsin. Obviously, with the duration of my stay at North Dakota State, Minnesota feels like I’ve been there forever. I feel really comfortable in those two areas. But I have recruited the northern suburbs of Chicago. I think for a two-week stint, getting us started in the Orlando and Tampa Bay stretch, I did that. I’ll answer that question the same way I told Coach Ferentz. I really value the upper Midwest. I really have a relationship I think that it’s easy to talk to those guys when you know you’re going into a community. And if there’s a steel factory there, you know what they’re going through.
But I’m totally confident you could drop me off with a helicopter in the desert and we’ll go find some people to build a relationship with, and find out who the biggest guy is that can bend and move, and do our best to get him educated on The University of Iowa. Not only that, get him on campus multiple times and go from there.
Q. What are things you look for in recruiting, especially the kids from the upper Midwest?
Polasek: Yeah, I think growth potential is up there for me. I want to see a kid that’s got some length and ability to grow into his body. Maybe something that somebody has not picked up on yet. Maybe his dad’s 6’6″ and this kid’s only 15 years old and going into his senior year. Those kind of things.
Character, you take a bad kid, he can beat you every day. And you don’t take that guy, you maybe see him once a year. So what we’ve found in my travels, and I’m going to talk about North Dakota State, we just found that finding the right guy that can fit the culture and recruit to the culture is the most important thing. Because if the culture is about effort and it’s about competing and improving, and you get those kind of guys, we’re going to be confident in the strength coach and in our coaching ability will get that guy somewhere.
Q. Talk about that last-second field goal, what do you remember about that game?
Polasek: You know, I remember — I just remember staying true to the plan as far as we’ve just got to keep moving laterally if we want to try to go at them. There haven’t been many of those games where it’s just I was excited that we were able to do that. Maybe the 4th and 2 run, the 4th down and 2. We knew it was 4 down. I just spoke to King Frazier on the way in here today and told him thanks for that run. I did.
It was really important, and what an effort play that kid made on that off-tackle run and those couple things. The two-point play I’d like to forget because it was about as bad of a play call as you could make.
Q. How was the process for this? Did somebody from Iowa reach out to you? Did you reach out to Gene or how did it work?
Polasek: No, I think Coach Copeland touched on the word loyalty several times, and I’ve kind of been a guy that hasn’t reached out very much. I’ll not be on my phone in January looking for jobs. If somebody calls, we’ll take a peek. What simply had happened was that I saw special teams/running backs, and what’s Coach Brian Ferentz going to coach? And I called Seth, and said, Seth, I have a great deal of interest. And I got to know Seth Wallace, man, do I respect him.
I’m not saying this arrogantly. But in Wisconsin, I’m in the schools, and I’m like who is this Division-1I-A guy that’s hitting 9, 10 schools a day because I shouldn’t be seeing this much paper trail. So me and Seth shortly, through a couple mutual friends out there in the high school world, just built relationships, and I did reach out.
Thankfully, I got my application in on the day of the deadline. And, you know ever since then it’s just been communication with Coach and Brian over the phone. Then I think I was one of the last guys to interview. I’m not sure on that, last Thursday.
Q. You mentioned sleeping on the floor and the $6,000 a year. That was at North Dakota State, what position was that before you moved into a house?
Polasek: Yeah, GAs nowadays get paid $12,000. Well, it was really interesting because I had the opportunity to coordinate at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Once I was offered the job at North Dakota State. And quite frankly, I took the job on the spot at NDSU.
So when I was going back there, that was just the cost. That was what you had to do. You like to think you paid your dues, and that’s one of the reasons you’re up here today. Sleeping on the floor wasn’t as bad as it seems, to be honest. At that time I was totally committed to working 12-, 14-hour days and just learning football.
I remember staying up there with our defensive coordinator at the time was Willie Matt Garza. And he would say, Don’t you have some work to do like breaking down film? And I was the running-back coach at the time. But I said, I’m going to get that done once you’re done learning inside run because I want to learn the run fits of the defense.
That’s just the way it was. You look at it now and it’s just part of hopefully a pretty neat story that’s only half written.
Q. Would you say the culture at North Dakota State compares to Iowa quite a bit?
Polasek: Oh, I think, yeah. To be honest, that’s one of the reasons I was so comfortable attacking this opportunity. Yeah, without just saying yes, I mean, development of student-athletes, knock on wood, it just hasn’t had a lot of issues out there from a criminal standpoint and those kind of things, recruiting the right guys.
I think genuinely, if you talk to me about really good guys, I’m going to start with Chris Klieman. There is not a better human being that I’ve been around that still has the ability to push and get a lot out of you without being a jerk or whatever you want to call it.
I think leadership from top to bottom. Going all the way back from 2006 where it started with Gene Taylor with us and North Dakota State and with Matt Larson, I think it’s just really cool to see. It’s neat to see the basketball program at NDSU do well. I got to meet the wrestling coach today. I think that’s really cool.
I want to be a person, and I want my wife to be dressed up at a basketball game in support of Hawkeye athletics. I think that’s really cool. So from that standpoint, community, support, and what we ask our kids to do and how we’re going to ask our kids to do it, I think it’s very, very similar. You bet. We’d rather go down losing at North Dakota State with the way we do things than to go down any other way. I think that’s cool.