Caleb Shudak couldn’t pass on the opportunity.
For five years he battled to be Iowa’s starting kicker. Given a chance at a sixth season after the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility for players last season, Shudak wanted to stay.
“You put in all of those years of work, it’s one of those things where you have this opportunity right now, it’s there, so why not take it?” Shudak said after Saturday’s open practice to close the spring schedule. “It’s not going to hurt anything doing it. I have great friends here at Iowa, the coaches are amazing. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
“With Caleb, there wasn’t much of a recruiting pitch,” special teams coordinator LeVar Woods said. “He knows who he is, he knows what he wants to do and what he wants to accomplish. I think it was important for him to come back and finish with his teammates.”
Shudak is No. 1 on the depth chart, a spot he has worked to ascend to throughout a long career that started when he came to Iowa as a walk-on in the 2016 season.
“It’s very humbling, rewarding, putting in all those years of work, learning from so many different guys,” Shudak said. “It’s, like, now it’s time to put it all together in the implementation.”
In a spring in which there are question marks among the position groups for the Hawkeyes, the one area coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t concerned about is special teams with Shudak and punter Tory Taylor.
Shudak has handled kickoffs the last two seasons, with 30 touchbacks in 2020 and 31 in 2019. But he had just one field-goal attempt in those seasons — a 52-yarder he missed against Northwestern last season — as the placekicking duties fell to Keith Duncan, a consensus All-American in 2019 who set a Big Ten record with 29 field goals that season.
The competition with Duncan was something Shudak enjoyed.
“We got along great, and we were both at the top of our game,” he said. “We really pushed each other.”
“He could have been the starter the last two years,” Ferentz said. “We’ve watched him every day in practice.
“It’s one thing the way he performs. It’s another thing how he’s wired mentally.He’s a really mentally tough guy, focused.”
“I tell a lot of people — he’s a really, really good kicker,” Woods said. “We had two really good kickers here, people just didn’t know Caleb as well. You’re going to get to see him this spring and this fall, and I’m excited for him.”
Shudak knows how much he has grown as a player.
“If I look at the film from my freshman year, I’m almost embarrassed,” he said.
“I thought I knew what I was doing, but I had lots to learn. Coming that far in so long, it’s been a humbling experience.”
Shudak, a civil and environmental engineering major, has his undergraduate degree, and is finishing his graduate work.
“Lot of schooling,” he said with a laugh. “Technically right now I’m an undeclared undergrad right now. I’ve got to figure out what to do, how to fill my scheduling.”
It’s a final chance, Shudak said.
“I got the opportunity,” he said, “and I’m fully ready to take advantage of it.”