September 15, 2004
Two years ago, Iowa quarterback Drew Tate was on the cover of Texas Football magazine with some pretty heady folks.
There was a fellow by the name of Emmitt Smith who was closing in on Walter Payton's NFL career rushing record.
There was Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who was setting bushels of state collegiate passing records.
And there was also a legendary Texas high school coach who was chasing a state record for victories.
Tate was there because he was about to become the most prolific passer in state history.
The career passing leader in Texas history being at Iowa might seem incongruous, but that's who Arizona State (2-0) will be facing Saturday in one of the more interesting matchups this weekend.
After three years of relying on junior college transfers to run the Hawkeyes offense, coach Kirk Ferentz finally landed a player who can guide his team for more than a year or two. Tate, in fact, is the fifth different starting quarterback in as many years.
"We were lucky" to sign Tate, Ferentz said, noting that the Baytown, Texas, resident had committed to Texas A&M his junior year. "We were in (the recruiting process) the whole time. But when (A&M) made the change in coaching staff, that's what opened the door for us.
"Fortunately for us, his stepdad had Iowa connections. He grew up in this part of the country."
Tate, who passed for 12,180 yards and 113 touchdowns at Robert E. Lee High School, is listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds, which is only five pounds more than what he was listed in 2002.
He's actually shorter than that, though Ferentz said he's not 5-foot-7 as has been mentioned this week.
"That sounds a little bit like some folklore," Ferentz said. "We're giving him credit for 6 feet. One of our best players (safety Bob Sanders) was 5-8. We have to take what we can get. We look for guys that can play winning football for us."
He added, "We're not Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State. We don't have a height quota. We find the best players we can find. We're happy Drew is on our team."
A four-year starter in high school, Tate was groomed to be a leader, and he's had to assume much of Iowa's ball-control offense already.
Tate has completed 65.9 percent of his 44 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. He's also gained 20 yards rushing.
"He's impressed us since day one," Ferentz said. "We were sold on his intangibles."
Ferentz will be counting on those intangibles while the Hawkeyes try to improve their offense.
Just as they were last season before the ASU game, the Hawkeyes are trying to develop a consistent offense.
"I'm a little more concerned about it than last year," Ferentz said. "It's laughable where we're ranked (16th). We were a team struggling early in the season and we continue to do that right now. But last year we had (Outland Trophy winner) Robert Gallery. We don't have that luxury. We were more of a veteran team up front."
Ferentz said both his second-and third-team tailbacks will miss the ASU game because of injuries.
"We're solid on defense like a year ago," the sixth-year coach said. "But we're still searching for some things on offense. And we don't have (All-American kicker) Nate Kaeding either this year."
Which means more of the offensive responsibility falls on the career passing leader in Texas high school football.