IOWA CITY, Iowa - Noah Shannon’s initiation to Iowa Football came as a freshman in 2018.
“I was going up against Ross Reynolds and Keegan Render on the scout team,” said Shannon, a defensive tackle. “It was one of those weeks where physicality was going to play a bigger part in the game, and I got rolled out of there on a double team. I was like, “OK, alright, this is what it’s like.”
Three seasons later, Shannon has worked his way into the starting lineup on Iowa’s new-look defensive line. He’s done it with persistence, hard work and attention to detail. Before every practice this spring, defensive line coach Kelvin Bell gives his players a point of emphasis sheet. It starts with an inspirational quote, followed by what he wants his players to work on that day.
Shannon, a 6-foot, 288-pounder from Aurora, Ill., takes it a step further. At the top of each sheet, he writes down what he wants to concentrate on individually.
On Tuesday, Shannon wrote “separation” and “vision.”
“Just going through each rep and making sure I was as long as I could be and putting my eyes on my gap and secondary gap, making sure I had vision on the ball carrier,” Shannon said. Shannon started adding his own area of emphasis this spring.
“It’s something Coach Bell wanted us to do,” he said. “I’m not sure if all the guys do it every day. But it’s something I try to do because I feel like it does help.”
Shannon keeps all his daily practice sheets, and occasionally goes back to review how he did. “(Tuesday) I looked at film from last Thursday,” he said. “I wanted to know what I was trying to improve on, so I grabbed my point of emphasis sheet, looked through it and then analyzed the film.”
That attention to detail is one of the reasons Shannon has worked his way to the point of attack. After redshirting in 2018 and seeing limited snaps in seven games in 2019, he got a real taste of the college game last season. Shannon played in all eight games, and made his first career start against Nebraska. He had 11 tackles on the season, and gained invaluable experience on top of it.
Three of the four starters on Iowa’s defensive front from 2020 are gone. Daviyon Nixon, a consensus all-American at defensive tackle, entered the NFL Draft with a season of eligibility remaining. First-team all-Big Ten defensive end Chauncey Golston and tackle Jack Heflin are also gone.
Shannon is in a position to fill one of those vacant tackle spots. His development might have been slowed because of no spring ball a season ago, and no practices leading up to a bowl game after the Music City Bowl game with Missouri was canceled.
But in 15 practices this spring, Shannon is using attention to detail as a way to make up for lost time.
“It comes down to getting back in the film room, analyzing it and then being the hardest critic you can be on yourself and also your teammates, because it starts with self accountability,” Shannon said. “That transfers over to helping the younger guys. I’m just giving myself an honest evaluation every day.”
Shannon has come a long way from the days of getting rolled by Reynolds and Render. Now, he’s sharpening his game with his daily tussles against all-Big Ten center Tyler Linderbaum and offensive guard Kyler “Shooter” Schott.
“I’m not sure I’m going to see any centers better than Tyler in the Big Ten,” Shannon said. “ I feel like going out to practice and practicing and competing against those types of guys every day really helps.”
Linderbaum sets a standard that Shannon tries to emulate on every repetition.
“You’ve really got to come to practice on point every day,” Shannon said. “That’s what I love about it. I have to be at my best every day because I know that Linderbaum is going to be at his best on every play. And I know the technique he brings with him every play. I wake up in the morning and it almost feels like a game day to me, being able to go against Linderbaum very day.”
Defensive line play has been a strength on recent Iowa teams, and Shannon embraces the pressure of keeping that legacy alive.
“Just wanting to let the coaches know I’m always ready and available no matter what the circumstance,” Shannon said. “I think it says a lot about you as a man, and how you’re able to overcome obstacles.”
It is a “Next Man In” approach.
“That’s how we’re built,” Shannon said. “We always hear Coach (Kirk) Ferentz talk about next man in. We see it every year. Football comes with injuries, and you’ve got to be ready to step in. Coach Ferentz gets us prepared for that in spring camp and fall ball. Guys are ready when their name is called.”
Shannon’s mission is to keep opposing offenses in check. But he’s also got an investment in the Iowa offense. He first roomed with big-play wide receiver Tyrone Tracy in the dorms as a freshman.
“We’re still roommates to this day,” Shannon said. “I have a lot of love for that guy, and how he plays the game.”