Iowa's Sam Brincks (90), Ben Niemann (44), and Bo Bower (41) walk off the field during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa linebackers ready for final game at Kinnick

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For Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann, and Bo Bower, one last stand at Kinnick.

By Adam Hensley
adam-hensley@uiowa.edu

On Saturday, three players responsible for 799 tackles over the past four seasons will make their final entrance to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” at Kinnick.

Iowa’s game against Purdue is Senior Day, the last time the Hawkeyes’ linebacker trio of Josey Jewell, Bo Bower, and Ben Niemann will play in Iowa City.

“[I] try to kind of keep that in the back of my mind,” Jewell said. “I don’t think about it too much. I try to think about the game, try to treat this as a normal game.”

As much as it is just one more game on Iowa’s schedule, it’s hard to not reminisce, especially for the seniors.

“Who’s crying the most? Probably Ben,” Bower said. “Maybe Josey. He might not cry. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll cry.”

This season, they’ve recorded 232 tackles through 10 games. Outside of those three, no other player on the team has more than 44, and no Hawkeyes have at least 1 sack and 60 tackles outside of the group.

None of the three linebackers were heavily recruited coming out of high school, and each share that special chip on their shoulders, which ultimately formed a bond.

“It’s awesome to be around those guys every day, joking around in the locker rooms, pushing each other on the field and in the weight room,” Niemann said.

Each Sunday, the Hawkeyes review the tape from the previous day’s game, spending hours analyzing what went wrong, what went right, and which areas the team can improve heading into the next week.

But once film session ends, the linebackers get together for their own “film session.”

“We’ll all sit down and watch football,” Bower said. “We’ll sit on the couch — maybe we’re all couch potatoes — and we all usually watch a game Sunday night.”

Those memories are just some of the many that will follow these athletes after this season.

“[Jewell and Bower are] two great teammates, two great friends, guys I’ll have relationships with after football,” Niemann said. “It’s been awesome to play alongside them for the number of snaps [I’ve] been able to.”

Jewell … fullback?

Head coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t proud to say he almost didn’t land Jewell, who currently has 100 tackles and 2.5 sacks and is regarded as one of the best linebackers in the country.

“I’ve said many times, we almost blew the Josey Jewell deal,” Ferentz said. “It’s still hard to believe.”

He said evaluating players out of high school is a tall task; many things do in the process, and often, it’s hit or miss with athletes depending on their commitment and their willingness to work on their game.

But with Jewell, Ferentz said he admired his toughness but didn’t know for sure where he’d fit in at Iowa.

“My feeling about Josey was at the end of the day, if nothing else, he’d play fullback,” Ferentz said. “He’d make our team — kind of like Bob Sanders, he’d make our team tougher and make us better that way … Where do all linebackers go if they can’t play linebacker? They end up at fullback. That’s kind of the way it is.”

Flushing a loss

The Hawkeyes have a 24-hour rule to their games — regardless of a win or loss, the players and coaches have only 24 hours following the game’s conclusion to dwell on the outcome.

That rule applied to Iowa after its 38-14 thrashing in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Badgers shut down the Hawkeye offense; Iowa only gained 25 yards on the ground and 41 through the air.

Quarterback Nate Stanley completed 8-of-24, threw an interception, and fumbled the ball twice in the loss — one that was tough to swallow.

“Something the coaches always preach is learn from it and then flush it,” Stanley said. “That’s one thing that really helps to kind of let that go.”

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