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November 20, 2009

Linebacker duo ready for emotional day

They are about as different as two people could be, but every Saturday for the past two years, A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer have teamed up on the football field to provide great memories for Hawkeye fans.

On Saturday they will team up for the final time inside Kinnick Stadium and #43 and #49 will sprint out to midfield to greet their parents with emotions flowing freely.

"I bet my old man will be crying," Angerer said. "He's pretty good at that."

"My mom is going to be a mess. My dad might be a little wet around the eyes too," Edds said. "I think that is pretty much the case for most of the parents of the seniors. It is a big deal for the players' parents and I'm sure that I will have a little lump in my throat."

Who knows, maybe even a these two tough guys will shed a tear and who could blame them. It's been a great ride for the two senior captains even if there have been a few bumps in the road.

It's their differences that make them unique and their togetherness that makes them special.

Angerer is more comfortable in a flannel shirt and jeans and probably will be that way his entire life. Edds is destined for the world of suits and ties. Angerer has a look that a Marine would be proud of and Edds is sporting a mop top that fits right in with today's college student. Both are wise crackers with a quick wit, but in Angerer's world there are no sacred cows, while Edds takes a more measured approach, even though he does killer impressions of Kirk Ferentz and Norm Parker.

Just days before their final home game, the two linebackers were trading friendly good natured shots back and forth at each other.

"We are pretty different," Angerer said. "He's ugly, I'm not. I'm athletic, he's not. I'm stronger, he's not that strong. Those are probably the biggest differences with us. I think his biggest accomplishment is that he is so ugly and he managed to get a girlfriend in college."

Edds was well aware of Angerer's commentary because he has heard it many times before and fired back in kind.

"Pat talks a big game," he said. "I told Pat, you're right, I'm tall and you're short. I'm smart and you're street smart. We are different kinds of people, but at the same time when we get on the football field we fit together and he is a great guy and teammate. I have really enjoyed playing with him."

After their Hawkeye careers come to an end in a bowl game in January, both will have an opportunity to play in the NFL. How long that will be is yet to be determined, but it is something they want to pursue. From there, their futures will probably take a different path.

"He's (Edds) probably going after Gary Barta's job as soon as he gets out of football. Fortunately he wants to go into administration, not coaching, or maybe he'll be president of a bank or something like that. That's what he looks like," said Coach Kirk Ferentz. "Pat might be after someone else's job, WWA or whatever they call that stuff. So a little different personality wise."

The past two years after been pretty special, but their journeys to this day have been very different.

Edds came in ticketed to play tight end for the Hawkeyes and expected to redshirt. Both those plans changed quickly towards the end of camp in his freshman year.

"He called us at said he had two pieces of news. He said he was going to be playing linebacker and that they wanted him to play as a true freshman," said A.J.'s father, David Edds.

Edds ended playing quite a bit on special teams as a freshman and starting one game at linebacker when Mike Humpal was injured. Heading into his final regular season game as a Hawkeye, the Indiana native has started every game the past three years at outside linebacker and going into Saturday he has logged 213 tackles, 12.5 of those for loss, 2.5 sacks, and five interceptions. His tackle total is in the top 50 all-time in Iowa Football history.

"A.J. is playing out there at a position that's so key to our defense, yet it's not as pronounced because statistically that's just how it works out. But we can't play good defense without somebody in that position playing great," Ferentz said.

For Angerer, getting to this point was filled with bumps in the road early on. Plenty of bumps in the road. You name it and in his first three years at Iowa, the Bettendorf native probably had the injury or illness. It was so bad that the kid who loved football nearly gave up the game.

"It would have been pretty stupid. I don't know what I would be doing right now," Angerer said. "I would probably be in jail. I'm glad I'm not because I don't think I could last in jail."

"He was going through a tough time," said his father, Cliff. "I'm glad he stuck it out because it has really worked out for him and I am so proud of him."

Angerer finally got his big break last year and won the starting middle linebacker job and never looked back. Going into his final game at Kinnick Stadium, he has 232 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, a pair of sacks, and six interceptions. At his current pace, he will have a shot at finishing in the top 25 all-time in tackles at Iowa.

What makes Saturday so special for both players is the love and support that their families have given them over the years.

David and Anne Edds haven't missed an Iowa game since the overtime win at Syracuse in their son's freshman year back in 2006.

"We didn't know early enough if A.J. was actually going to play so we decided to stay home," David said. "We sat at home watching that game and couldn't stand it because it was such a close game. After that, we said we were never missing another game."

"It means a lot that they were willing and able to come to every game. Since they live in central Indiana, a lot of the games are fairly close for them in some ways, but it is always great to see them and spend time with them after games," Edds said.

Cliff Angerer and his wife Mary have made every trip the past two years heading off in their Ford Windstar van with the black and gold license plate PA43LB on the back. Many times they will have fans honk as they pass by.

"We get a few honks on the road when they see the plates," Cliff said. "Last year when we were driving down to Illinois, we had someone honk at us and then as they went by they gave us a thumbs down. Obviously they were Illinois fans."

Making those trips the past two years has meant a lot to their son.

"It's awesome that they make all those trips. He would support me no matter what and every time I talk to him on the phone he tells me how proud he is of me and that means a lot," Angerer said.

One thing that rings true with both sets of parents is the pride they have in their boys who have grown into outstanding young men.

"We are just so proud of A.J. Not only for what he has become on the football field, but off of it," David Edds said. "He has worked so hard on and off the field to get where he is today and he does so many good things in the community as well giving support to others. Iowa was the perfect place for him to grow up and become a man."

For Cliff and Mary Angerer, these last two years with their son finally healthy and showing what he can do on the football field have been very special.

"It has been like a dream," Cliff said. "You always that you would have a son or a daughter play Division I sports. I always dreamed that I would have a son who could play for the Hawkeyes because I have been a Hawkeye fan for 68 years. Now no one can take that away from me and that is pretty special."

These two seniors, along with all of their teammates have done the hard work necessary to bring back Iowa football after a couple of tough seasons and they take a great deal of pride in the accomplishment.

"It means a lot to get this program back on track to where it was when I was being recruited to come to Iowa," Edds said. "We take great pride in the fact that this program can take a bunch of guys who might not be the most skilled players individually, but we work together as a team, buy into what the coaches are saying, and then go out and get the job done."

Now there is one more job to get done at home. After all the tears have been wiped away there will be one last home game for A.J. Edds, Pat Angerer, and 15 other seniors who will be playing their final game at Kinnick Stadium.

"It's been a rollercoaster for a lot of guys in this senior class," Angerer said. "I'm not the only one that has dealt with injuries. It is so satisfying that we have made it this far and we will be going out there on Saturday for one last fight."

A huge thank you from all Hawkeye fans goes out to the entire senior class: Pat Angerer, Kyle Calloway, Joe Conklin, Dan Doering, A.J. Edds, Rafael Eubanks, Chad Geary, Bryce Griswold, Taylor Herbst, Andy Kuempel, Travis Meade, Tony Moeaki, Jayme Murphy, Dace Richardson, Chris Rowell, Kyle Spading, and Trey Stross.


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