Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Football journey: Brian Ferentz

Brian Ferentz enjoyed playing for his father, Kirk, at Iowa.

February, 4, 2012

By Mike Reiss

INDIANAPOLIS – Now in his fourth season with the Patriots, Brian Ferentz has been rising up the coaching ranks.

As many young coaches often do in New England, Ferentz got his start in scouting (2008). He joined the coaching staff the following year as an assistant. He took on more responsibility in 2010 before being named tight ends coach in 2011.

Ferentz’s work was praised by head coach Bill Belichick.

"Brian is very mature for his age, and he has a lot of football experience,” Belichick said of the 28-year-old Ferentz, who is the son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “I think that the whole life experience of growing up in a coaching family, growing up with a coach and having football in your blood almost from the day you were born, you pick up some things by osmosis and being around it. Kirk is a great friend of mine and a tremendous coach. I have so much respect for Kirk for what he did for me in Cleveland in his coaching career, and Brian has learned from probably the best.

“I don't think that anyone does it any better than Kirk does, and Brian brings that overall awareness, instinctiveness and that aptitude for the game. I think the game comes easy to him in terms of techniques, Xs and Os and schemes because of his experience with it. He's done a great job in all of the responsibilities that he has, particularly in the development of our young tight ends. Even though he is young in age, he's much more experienced in terms of overall football knowledge."

During Super Bowl week, Ferentz shared his football journey with

When he first started playing football: “I was in fifth grade when I played my first organized football. We were living in Ohio at the time (1994).”

What positions he played: “I wanted to catch the football and didn’t want to put my hand on the ground, but I think that took like two days until I was playing on the offensive line. There was a weight limit and I had an ‘X’ on my helmet. I didn’t make weight to play the skill positions. “

Top memories of high school football: “I was very fortunate to be on some very good teams, in two different states. In Baltimore, I played for the Gilman School my freshman and sophomore year. My sophomore year we went undefeated. I remember my dad telling to me to cherish that because it was so rare. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Here is an NFL coach – he was with the Ravens at the time – telling me to cherish a high school season.’ He was right, which I found out 15 years later. It’s so rare, so hard to do things like that. Then I went to Iowa City High School and we had some good teams. We went to the semifinals of the state playoffs my second year, my senior year of high school. We didn’t win.”

Remembering his one catch: “In eighth grade, I played tight end and caught one ball for 4 yards on a checkdown. That was my only competitive catch ever. In high school, I played on the offensive line, I played linebacker and defensive line. I was a smaller player.”

Why he decided to attend University of Iowa: “No one else was recruiting me. I was a tweener, about 240 pounds my senior year of high school, 6-foot-2 1/2. I was not really big enough in most people’s eyes to play on the offensive line. I would have had to walk on at other schools and was fortunate to get a scholarship at Iowa. I was able to go in there and work with their strength and conditioning program, which in my opinion is one of the best in the country. Anything I ever accomplished as a player – and I accomplished a lot more than I ever thought I would – was because of the coaches I had there.”

Top memories at Iowa: “There are a lot of good ones. It was a great five years for me. What stands out most is the first time we won the Big 10 championship when I was there, which was 2002. We went up to Minnesota and beat them. I actually was not playing. I had torn my ACL and was rehabbing that. In 2003, my first start, that’s obviously a good memory for a kid who spent most of his younger years in Iowa. Wherever we moved, I always wanted to be a Hawkeye and play for the University of Iowa. To be able to start my first game there was a pretty special experience.”

What it was like playing for his dad at Iowa: “It was a lot of fun. When you grow up in a household where your dad’s in coaching, you don’t see your dad as much as if he worked a 9-to-5 job. Growing up, my father was very involved in my life, but were we close physically every day? Not always. So to be able to go play with him for five years was a great experience. You get to know your father as more than just a football coach. You get to know him as a man, as a professional, how he does things on a day to day basis. You see him do his job, it’s like take-your-son-to-work day.”

Entering the NFL as a free agent with the Falcons in 2006: “I basically had one of these [pointing to a cup of coffee on the table]. It was an experience I will cherish forever, and I say that with a little self-depreciation, only because I’m around the most elite football players in the world. That, in and of itself, is fun. I look at some of our guys and wonder how I was even close, to be honest with you. It was a great experience. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NFL. I never got to play in a real NFL game. It was preseason, and the first game I ever played was against the New England Patriots.”

Describing the two seasons he hoped to make a roster: Coach Petrino and his staff came in and they started moving in a little different direction, especially up front. I was a smaller guy, more of a West Coast zone scheme type guy. They liked to man block and pull people. I didn’t fit that scheme very well. You don’t want guys like me spending a lot of time single-blocking Vince Wilfork. That will end very badly for your football team. That ends badly for good players, so imagine a very mediocre player. I bounced around a little bit, had some workouts and didn’t get picked up until [2007] training camp with the Saints. I had a chance to compete for a roster spot and didn’t make their team. That was the last moment for me.

Transitioning to the scouting/coaching ranks with the Patriots in 2008: Scott Pioli called me. He’s a family friend and we always talked about perhaps ending up with the organization in some capacity. He called and offered – ‘Would you like to come up here?’ and it wasn’t as a player. I figured if a guy of that stature makes that call and evaluation was telling me it wasn’t going to work, I should probably get out of it. I ended up going into the organization in April, upstairs with Scott. Then at the end of that season, I moved on [to coaching full-time]. I was actually working with the defense at that time."

Life as a coach under Bill Belichick: “I think it’s a pretty good life. We’re so fortunate to work for a guy with his experience, knowledge, and expertise. His motivational skills. Go down the list of coaching attributes and here is a guy who has all of them. We get to come in, talk to him, and what more could you ask for? Is it difficult at times? Sure. But it’s hard to work anyways. When you work for Coach Belichick, you always have a chance to win. You can’t ever take that for granted in this business.”

Favorite teams and players growing up: “Wherever my dad coached. When we were in Iowa, I obviously loved the Hawkeyes. My NFL team would have been the Steelers, originally, only because my whole family is from Pittsburgh. My dad grew up In Pittsburgh, of the late 60s, early 70s, the beginning of the Chuck Noll era. When my father went to Cleveland, that changed pretty quickly and I developed a pretty healthy dislike for that team. Same thing when we went to Baltimore. When we went back to Iowa City, the NFL fell by the wayside for me, because I was too busy doing my own thing. The one team that will always be my favorite is the University of Iowa.”

Summing up his football journey: “It’s been fun at every turn. It’s the reason I’m still in it. I love this game, this business, everything this game is about. When it’s done the right way, I think it’s the best game we play in this country because it teaches you all the things you need to be successful in life. It’s different for us [in the NFL], it’s a business, it’s all about football, 24 hours a day, it’s all about winning. With college kids, it’s an educational experience, and I don’t know if you can get a better education than playing this game. It’s the greatest game in the world and that’s why I’m still in it.”

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