Howe: Nate Stanley’s Legacy Stretches Beyond Wins and Losses

November 23, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s a personal decision. For some Iowa fans, Nate Stanley will be remembered fondly. Others will focus on his shortcomings.

It matters. We all desire positive affirmation. And although Iowa’s senior quarterback understands he can’t please everybody, the criticism cuts deep. Time will heal those wounds like it did some of his predecessors like Matt Sherman and James Vandenberg.

Stanley will most remember moments like Saturday’s postgame celebration following his team’s 19-10 victory against Illinois here at Kinnick Stadium. When he’s talking to his kids about his days wearing the Black and Gold, he’ll tell them about crying tears of joy with guys he worked alongside for four years, 12 months a year, to play only 13 games a season.

The often stoic Stanley wore his emotions for everyone to see Saturday, his face wet, eye black dripping as he met the media.

Watch. Feel the emotion.

Stanley was exhaling. It looked like a thousand pounds had been lifted from the perfectionist’s shoulders. The guy coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz have kept reminding to relax and have run was doing just that.

He wasn’t perfect Saturday. He finished 18 of 35 for 308 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. But like he did last week against Minnesota, he delivered in big moments with key throws or by using his legs. The last two weeks might be the most comfortable he’s looked in the pocket during his college career.

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The play that best illustrated the point came late in the third quarter with Iowa clinging to a 13-7 lead. Illinois pressured Stanley, a defender seemingly holding him in the grasp. The quarterback shed him off like he did back in ’17 against Ohio State, rolled left and hit receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette with a 40-yard dart. It led to a field goal that put Iowa ahead by two scores.

Stanley missed throws that could have made things easier for the Hawkeyes, but did toss eight completions for 20 yards or more. He’s come up short in some big games.

Welcome to sports. Perfection is unattainable and success rates vary.

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The Hawkeyes have won eight games this fall and could end up with 10 victories for just the eighth time since 1965 when they began playing that many games in a season. They’ve already won 25 contests in Stanley’s three years as a starter, including two bowl games.

Stanley will leave Iowa as one of the best in program history from a statistical standpoint. If that doesn’t matter to you, it matters less to him. He wants to win.

“The statistics say a lot about what he’s done as a player. But the thing I appreciate and I think all of us appreciate including his teammates is just the guy he is every day. He works extremely hard. He’s a high-integrity guy. Mental toughness, physical toughness, all those things you hope you find in a football player he’s got them, and he’s all about the team, and he has been right from day one,” Kirk Ferentz said.

Don’t pass that comment off as cliche even if that’s how it sounds. It’s genuine and accurate. His teammates see it, as Tyrone Tracy explains.

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Again, it’s up to each Iowa fan how he or she will remember Stanley. And it’s out of his control.

He took care of what was in his hands. It mattered to him and gave everything he had to his team.

That’s what I’ll remember.

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