IOWA CITY, Iowa – Cole Banwart walked in front of a throng of reporters Tuesday here at the Iowa football performance center and issued a request.
“This is my first time. Take it easy on me,” he said with a smile.
While it was reasonable, it proved unnecessary. He handled his initial interview with the pack of beat reporters very well.
It isn’t surprising. Banwart is what you think about when you picture Iowa football – a grounded, country kid built on hard work. He’s what outsiders see all Iowans as when ABC or ESPN comes back from commercial of a Hawkeye game with the obligatory shot of the corn field and combine.
And that’s OK. While it doesn’t paint the whole picture, it’s what’s good about our great state and the foundation of a proud football program. It’s Robert Gallery and Dallas Clark and Chad Greenway and so on.
Banwart hails from the small town of Ottosen, Iowa (population 42), a 10-minute drive from where Dallas Clark grew up. It sits a few hours northwest of Des Moines and features a stop light, a post office and a grain elevator.
“No gas station. A couple of churches. That’s about it. So, if you ever want to see something exciting…,” Banwart said.
He’s making folks back there proud. The redshirt sophomore is pushing for playing time, seeing a lot of first-team reps this spring at right guard. He’s also working at center.
That’s impressive development from a two-star recruit whose only other scholarship offers outside of Iowa were from Northern Iowa and South Dakota State. He’s another diamond in the rough uncovered by Hawkeye assistant Reese Morgan, this time at Algona High.
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Banwart didn’t follow a magical formula to playing time. He arrived on campus ready to work his butt off. He spent time soaking up knowledge from guys like Sean Welsh and James Daniels. He studied film and worked on fundamentals.
In the weight room, he listened to strength coach Chris Doyle and added 10 pounds to an already impressive frame. He’s grown to 296 pounds at 6-foot-4.
“I’m super excited about his future because he has continuously gotten better,” offensive line coach Tim Polasek said last week.
“The only thing that has stopped his growth has been injuries. So, he has to stay on the football field. But his grit, his toughness, he’s a Hawkeye. His teammates matter to him. He’s trying to do the things that we’re teaching, the way we want them done.”
Banwart injured his knee early in December’s Pinstripe Bowl prep and it required surgery. He then missed two weeks of winter training. He didn’t allow his time away to become an excuse. He returned ready and energized.
“You just have to pick up where you left off and not think about your injury,” he said.
Welsh and Daniels heading to the NFL opens up opportunities on the interior of Iowa’s offensive line. Keegan Render has slid over to center from right guard. Levi Paulsen, who started the spring as the No. 1 at that position, was injured and won’t return this month.
If Banwart falls short of a starting position this season, it won’t be from a lack of trying. That’s not in his DNA.
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A mellow approach works for Hawkeye junior.
He was raised by Tina and Craig Banwart to help with the family’s trucking company, hauling livestock and freight. He was changing the large tires and working on trailers in the fifth grade.
That hard work prepared him for a college football program that demands it. He see parallels between them.
“There’s a lot of similarities. Growing up on a farm and working for my dad there was a lot of strenuous stuff. (For Iowa Football) you’re working all the time, pushing to be the best,” he said.
Banwart is the type of down-to-earth, no-nonsense, task-driven guy who succeeds with the Hawkeyes. Get to know him a little better in this HN TV video: