Wide Receiver, 2004-2008
Andy Brodell studied Business Management at Iowa. He added a degree in Health and Sports Studies in hopes of being involved in athletics.
When he graduated in 2009, the country was enduring a financial crisis. Opportunities were few.
Former Hawkeye football teammate Bryan Gattas set him up with an interview in his line of work, which was medical device sales. Brodell gave it a shot.
During the interview, he was taken into an active operating room. He was told he was either going to love it or hate it, there was no middle ground when you watched patients being cut open.
“I loved it. I was fascinated by it,” Brodell said.
Eight and a half years later, he’s still working in operating rooms. He advises surgeons on the orthopedic products sold by his company, Arthrex. He and his wife, Kara, live in West Des Moines.
Brodell enjoys that his job often has him helping injured athletes. He’s familiar with their struggle after overcoming a stubborn hamstring while playing at Iowa from ’04-’08.
“It’s a unique situation being able to go into the O.R. and advise surgeons, people that are much smarter than I am. Our company’s motto is helping surgeons treat their patients better and I really believe that that’s what we do. It’s the most rewarding part of it,” he said.
Brodell began working for Arthrex in ’10 before joining Denver’s Smith and Nephew, where he worked for three years. That’s where he met Kara, a Kansas native. In the spring of ’16, they moved to Iowa and he rejoined Arthrex.
He’s among a large group of former Hawkeyes that have settled into careers selling medical devices.
“It’s kind of fun because I get to be around sports doctors and patients with injuries like ACLs and rotator cuffs,” Brodell said.
Ironically, his playing days ended because of an injury he sustained while at Iowa. Following his senior season of ’08, he signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers at the encouragement of his agent, Jack Bechta. They liked him as a receiver and on special teams.
The dream ended quickly, however. Three days into workouts, he failed their physical. Something they saw on an Xray of his hamstring didn’t sit well with them. He then failed physicals with St. Louis and Jacksonville.
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While he felt the best he had since injuring the hamstring during his junior year at Iowa, the teams felt he was susceptible to hurting it again. They chose not to take a chance.
“It’s a risk-reward type thing. It’s easier for them to go out and find someone with a similar skill set with less risk of injury. I definitely saw the business side of it. Anybody that’s been around it gets that,” he said.
Bechta told Brodell that he still had a good chance to be picked up by a team. Organizations were interested after an outstanding pro day performance that saw him run a 4.45-second, 40-yard dash.
“At that point, I felt like I was damaged goods. Football had been good enough to me. I got an education out of it. It was disappointing and hard to do, but I gave it up at that point,” Brodell said.
A similar scenario played out for former Hawkeye receiver Ed Hinkel a few years earlier. He had signed with Indianapolis but failed a physical based on the potential for being re-injured. That provided Brodell a blue print for moving on.
Brodell accomplished more in the game than many people expected. A two-star running back out of Ankeny (IA) High, he chose Iowa ahead of offers from Iowa State and Pittsburgh. He’d grown up a Cyclone fan attending games at Jack Trice Stadium.
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He believed in Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz and strength coach Chris Doyle. They won him over and kept him from staying in Central Iowa.
Brodell wondered a few times if it was the right decision. He red shirted in ’04 and saw limited playing time the next season. He credited Doyle with helping him pick things up from there.
“I think he saw more in me than I saw in myself the first couple of years. I remember him taking me aside a few times and ripping me a new one just trying to get me to wake up. I didn’t know the time and intensity it took day in and day out,” Brodell said.
It worked. As a sophomore in ’06, he ranked first on the team in receiving yards (724), second in touchdown catches (5) and third in receptions (39). His 18.6 yards per catch represented the third-best mark (Marvin McNutt and Mo Brown) in the last 20 years among players with at least 600 receiving yards in a season.
Brodell was excited to build on that campaign but his body had something different in store for him. The faulty hamstring limited him to four games during which he caught 13 passes for 96 yards.
He worked hard to get back onto the field as a senior in ’08. During his absence the previous year, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos emerged at receiver. McNutt and Trey Stross also were pushing for playing time.
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Brodell ended up starting every game. He caught 36 passes for 533 yards and tied for the team high with four receiving touchdowns. He also ranked third in the Big Ten and 31st in the nation in punt return average (10.6).
“I’m pretty proud of being able to get back. Nothing was guaranteed for me and we had some really good players in the (receiver) room,” he said.
His season and career highlight came against rival Iowa State in Week 3 of ’08. An 81-yard punt return for a touchdown helped clinch the Hawkeye victory at Kinnick Stadium. He was named the conference’s special teams’ player of the week.
“I took a lot of pride in being a punt returner. It’s not an easy position and I think it’s sort of overlooked,” he said.
Despite really only playing two seasons, Brodell ranks 25th in Iowa history with 1,395 receiving yards. It’s the 10th best mark for guys who only played for Ferentz.
He definitely experienced highs and lows during his time at Iowa. The team won a Big Ten title in ’04, didn’t reach a bowl game in ’07 and turned things around in ’08, a springboard for the next season when it won the Orange Bowl.
“It taught me a lot of perseverance,” he said. “Iowa was a pretty defining part of my life. I’m very proud of how things played out.”
Brodell credits the Iowa program with helping achieve success in life.
“Honestly, if I didn’t have that experience, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I think I’d be successful, but I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s just a big part of your development,” he said.