IOWA CITY — Brian Ferentz works in the family business today.
Down the road, it’s easy to believe he’ll get a chance to run his own shop.
During Iowa’s football media day, the 29-year-old Ferentz was a popular man with reporters. Why not? He’s the son of head coach Kirk Ferentz. He’s returned home, to the same place where he played college football, to work for his father as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach. The younger Ferentz served a four-year apprenticeship for the New England Patriots Bill Belichick.
So plenty of Ferentz family storylines cut through the conversations about tackles, guards and so on. Brian, as wave after wave of people armed with recorders surrounded him, answered all the questions expansively, comfortably and with an occasional jab thrown in for fun.
At one point, when asked if reporters make too much out of switching positions in the offensive line, Brian Ferentz said, “I think, with all due respect, you make too much of an issue out of everything. But that’s your job. I certainly understand that.”
Fair enough. Let’s make too much out of something that never even came up on a warm Monday afternoon – Brian Ferentz’ future.
Now, being able to handle yourself well in front of the media is hardly the most significant part of being a head coach. Decisions must be made, from staff to recruits to offensive and defensive systems. What will the man in charge do when it’s fourth-and-inches at the opponent’s 25 in the final two minutes of a tie game?
Brian Ferentz is miles away from those kind of choices. Relatively speaking, he’s a child in a profession of graybeards. Yet, if you step back and think ahead, you can imagine the day when he’ll stand at a podium somewhere, talking about his own team.
Clearly, he’s done plenty of thinking about the game of football. He’s tried to learn from his elders, coaches like Belichick, new Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and yes - his father.
Asked about coaching his linemen at Iowa, Brian Ferentz said, “The blueprint for me is – I’ll steal from coach Belichick and our head coach (at Iowa). You prepare to be the best and you do your job.
“That’s the blueprint. Do whatever you’re doing as well as you can do it. If your job is to fill up water bottles, then fill up the water bottles as best you can. Somebody will notice that and you’ll do more than fill up water battles.”
Coachspeak? Sure. But that little speech is also a reflection of Brian Ferentz’ own experience.
After his playing days at Iowa, he had a very brief playing career in Atlanta and New Orleans. By 2008, he was a scouting assistant in New England. Brian Ferentz didn’t have his own office. He did have a desk in a hallway.
“He started at the bottom,” Kirk Ferentz told the Boston Globe before the Super Bowl.
Brian Ferentz didn’t stay there. By the time the Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, he was the tight ends coach, working with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Then, he went back to Iowa, where he played in the offensive line from 2002-2005.
But Brian Ferentz is hardly the same kid who left Iowa City a few years ago.
“When you’re 18, 19, 20 21, 22 years old, your life is in a very different place,” he said. “You think about a lot of different things. When you’re a coach, all you do is think about football. That’s why I was very fortunate to have some of the experiences I’ve had, where the emphasis is on building a team, not getting the best players.
“When you talk about that, philosophically, that’s when you start to decide what’s important and you realize what’s important.”
In 2012, Iowa football is very much about doing the job now. The offensive line, without proven standouts like Riley Reiff, must be rebuilt. There isn’t much time to daydream and think about jobs to come. Northern Illinois awaits in a matter of weeks.
Family business that must be done.
“Everybody has an ego,” Brian Ferentz said. “You’d love to put your stamp on it, but I don’t think that’s fair to the guys who actually do the things they actually do. Their job is to put a stamp on it.
“If they want be a physical offensive line, then they’re gonna be a physical offensive line. They’ll never be a physical offensive line because a coach made them a physical offensive line. They’ll make themselves a physical offensive line. I enjoy the process and seeing it happen.”