This isn’t the first column and it certainly won’t be the last that gawks at what Iowa safety Brandon Snyder pulled off Saturday.
Snyder returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown against Illinois at Kinnick Stadium, just six months after tearing the ALC in his left knee. To return so quickly from such a major injury isn’t human. It’s like he’s the mutant super hero Wolverine, whose ability to heal quickly from any injury makes him nearly impossible to kill.
Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers injured his knee so badly in 1968 that it ultimately led to his retirement. Medicine has come a long way since then. But six months? For an ACL? Even in 2017 that’s incredible. Give credit to Snyder, his doctors and rehabilitators. And give credit to whatever freaky genetic code Snyder’s parents passed down to him.
“For [Snyder] to get a pick-six today and give us a spark like he did,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “that’s just really poetic justice.”
Snyder’s return says as much about medical advancements as it does about his work ethic. We’re well beyond Sayers. We’re well beyond former Georgia running back Robert Edwards, who blew out his knee following the 1998 NFL season in a gimmick flag football game. Without medical progress, Snyder wouldn’t have returned so quickly.
Conversely, Snyder put in the work. If you believe Iowa’s coaches – and why wouldn’t you? – Snyder rehabbed ferociously. He went well beyond the bare-minimum required to rehabilitate a torn ACL. As a result, we witnessed a physical accomplishment worthy of appearing in the same sentence as Terrell Owens playing in Super Bowl XXXIX with two screws in his leg and a torn ankle ligament, or Kirk Gibson homering in the World Series with a torn hamstring in one leg and a strained MCL in the other. Sure, Snyder presumably is healed, while Owens and Gibson played through injuries, but consider again the timeframe of Snyder’s recovery and the amount of work he must have put in to reach this point.
If that doesn’t inspire Snyder’s teammates, nothing will.
Iowa’s bye week comes at a good point in the regular season: six games in with six to play.
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Michigan State and Maryland received their byes in Week 3. Indiana started its season a week later than the rest of college football and doesn’t even receive a bye. Nebraska is still waiting on theirs. The Huskers host Ohio State next weekend and will likely limp into their bye week 3-4, needing to finish 3-2 just to become eligible for a bowl game.
The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, enter their bye with the opportunity to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t before traveling to Northwestern on Oct. 21. Plus, they’re supposed to be getting running back James Butler back.
Ten things we hope are on their bye week to-do list:
-Continue Tristan Wirfs’s crash course in playing tackle in college.
-Get Akrum Wadley some down time.
-Get Josey Jewell some down time.
-Park A.J. Epenesa in the film room.
-Convince Nate Stanley to dial back his cannon just a baby smidge on those short routes. Say, 10 percent back.
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-Celebrate successful fake punts in consecutive games with a round of cold ones.
-Write somewhere in their practice facility – with a Sharpie in all caps – “MAKE OFFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS FASTER.” (Easier said than done, I know.)
-Take at least a small bit of satisfaction that two of their opponents knocked off Oklahoma and Michigan on Saturday. It’s not basketball season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep one eye on strength of schedule.
-Forever delete “short-side lateral pitch deep in own end zone” from their playbook.
-Just keep being patient. For all of the expectations, this is still a transition year. There will be more speed bumps along the way.
* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.