Former Iowa defensive back Jovon Johnson has a knack for finding the football, and those play-making skills have helped the former Hawkeye make a name for himself in the Canadian Football League.
Johnson — now in his fourth season playing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL — is tied for the league lead with four interceptions this season, including one returned for a touchdown. Johnson’s strong play on the field has also guided Winnipeg to an 8-3 start, good for first place in the East Division.
The former Hawkeye and All-Big Ten player is no stranger to making big plays, whether it be on defense or special teams.
Over the past four seasons with Winnipeg, Johnson has picked off 17 passes, returning five for touchdowns. He also has three punt returns for touchdowns and an 118-yard missed field goal return for a score.
Johnson played defensive back for the Hawkeyes from 2002-2005. His 17 career interceptions ranks second all-time in Iowa history.
Former Iowa tight end Scott Chandler was a relative unknown through the first three seasons of his NFL career.
Four different teams.
Released four times.
Fast forward to the 2011 campaign — Chandler’s fourth season in the NFL — and the Buffalo Bills tight end has suddenly evolved not only into a pass-catching threat, but one of the league’s biggest surprises through two weeks of play.
The former Hawkeye hauled in a team-leading five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns in the Bills 41-7 Week 1 blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and had two receptions for 16 yards and one touchdown in a 38-35 Week 2 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Chandler’s three receiving touchdowns are tied for third-best in the league through the first two weeks of the season.
What has been the difference for the 6-foot-7, 263-pound tight end this year?
How does a player who hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since 2006 — Chandler’s senior season at Iowa — snag three receiving scores in the first two weeks of the NFL season?
The solution is simple. It’s a combination of staying healthy and taking advantage of being on the right team at the right time.
“For me, it was really exciting to go out there and get a chance to play,” Chandler told reporters after his two touchdown performance in Week 1. “I’ve had some down times in the last four years, but this really makes it worth it.”
A fourth round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2007 NFL Draft, Chandler was instantly put in a situation where success would have been difficult for even the best collegiate tight end.
The Chargers already had a prolific, play-making tight end in Antonio Gates, who in 2007 had already been to three Pro Bowls. Chandler played in only one game with the Chargers in his rookie season, then spent all of 2008 on injured reserve before being released.
Two stints with the Cowboys and one with the Giants also proved unsuccessful. Despite appearing in nine games for Dallas in 2010, Chandler was once again on a squad who already had a top tier tight end — seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten.
Chandler didn’t sit back and feel sorry for himself, however.
“As frustrating as those four years were, they weren’t a waste,” he said in an article in the Times-Union. “There’s a lot to learn from those guys, and I soaked up as much as I could.”
The former Hawkeye joined the Bills in 2010 — the perfect locale for a tight end with something to prove.
“Successful tight end” isn’t a phrase uttered often in Buffalo.
In the previous two seasons, Bills tight ends have combined to catch only two touchdown passes.
Chandler is the first Buffalo tight end to catch two touchdowns in a road game since 1992, the first with five catches in a game since 2009, and the first to amass at least 63 receiving yards in a game since 2008.
The former Hawkeye will surely garner more attention as the 2011 NFL season progresses, forcing him to step up and show he can still be a viable offensive threat now that he’ll actually be listed in opponents’ scouting reports.
While he may not lead the league in catches or touchdowns this season, Chandler has accomplished what he’s set out to do since becoming a professional football player.
Prove he belongs.
“I made a decision after I got cut the first time that I was going to do this until nobody called,” Chandler said in an article in The Buffalo News. “People kept calling…Through prayer and reason you come to see that if you can play football a lot of time people will find an opportunity to give you.”
In this weekly segment, we’ll take a look at which former Hawkeyes are performing well on Sunday’s for their respective NFL squads. Here’s a look at the former Hawkeye stat leaders through the first two weeks of the NFL season.
1. Scott Chandler, TE Bills — 7 catches, 79 yards, 3 TDs
2. Dallas Clark, TE Colts — 8 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD
3. Brandon Myers, TE Raiders — 4 catches, 26 yards, 0 TDs
4. Shonn Greene, RB Jets — 3 catches, 13 yards, 0 TDs
1. Shonn Greene, RB NY Jets — 26 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD
1. Pat Angerer, LB Colts — 21 tackles
2. Chad Greenway, LB Vikings — 13 tackles
3. Bob Sanders, S Chargers — 12 tackles
4. Bradley Fletcher, CB Rams — 10 tackles
T5. Charles Godfrey, CB Panthers — 9 tackles
T5. Amari Spievey, CB Lions — 9 tackles
1. Matt Roth, DL Jaguars — 2 sacks
2. Karl Klug, DL Titans — 1 sack
1. Ryan Donahue, P Lions — 10 punts for 447 yards (44.7 avg), 5 punts Inside 20
2. Jason Baker, P Panthers — 9 punts for 364 yards (40.4 avg), 3 punts Inside 20
Hawkeye fans are calling for a “Green Out” for Iowa’s Sept. 24 home contest against Louisiana-Monroe to support former Hawkeye safety Brett Greenwood.
Greenwood has been in the hospital since collapsing on Sept. 9 while working out at Pleasant Valley High School in his hometown of of Bettendorf. He was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics shortly thereafter and remains hospitalized in a medically-induced coma.
Greenwood’s parents, Michele and Dave, released a statement Wednesday through the UI Sports Information Department, noting that Brett “continues to fight and to make improvements.”
“During this very difficult time for our family, we have been overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from family, friends, the community and the Hawkeye Nation,” the Greenwood Family said in the statement. “It means a great deal to us to have so many people reaching out to us and telling us that they are praying for Brett.”
Brett Greenwood played safety for the Hawkeyes from 2007-2010 after joining the team as a walk-on. He earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and 2010. He led the Big Ten with five interceptions in 2010 and his 12 career picks ranks sixth in Iowa history.
So far, more than 4,250 people have said they plan to wear Green at Kinnick on the “Wear GREEN for GREENWOOD” Facebook page.
Former Hawkeye and current Cleveland Brown offensive lineman Eric Steinbach will miss the entire 2011 NFL season after undergoing back surgery Tuesday to repair a bulging disk.
Steinbach served as an extremely durable anchor for the Browns offensive line, playing each of the last two seasons without missing a single game. Over the past eight seasons, Steinbach has started 124 games.
The former Hawkeye’s quickness and ability to open holes translated into success for Browns running back Peyton Hillis, who ran for a career-best 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Steinbach earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2002, and was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He’s been with the Browns since 2007.
Former Iowa Hawkeye placekicker Kyle Schlicher made an appearance on the “Jim Rome Show” today, discussing his life after donning the Black and Gold uniform.
Rome is currently on a streak of interviewing people with the first name “Kyle” on his show. After a guest cancelled, Rome took to Twitter in search of another Kyle to keep his streak alive.
The former Iowa Hawkeye and Iowa Barnstormer kicker talked about his current profession: training Navy SEALs as a strength and conditioning coach. He also helped extend Rome’s “Kyle Streak” to 16 straight days.
Listen to a portion of Rome’s interview with former Hawkeye Kyle Schilcher here: http://tvider.com/view/63366
We’ve reached the third round of the Top NFL Hawkeye poll. Thanks to all of the Iowa fans who have participated in the polling thus far.
We’re down to the Elite 8. Here are the match-ups:
#1 Dallas Clark vs. #8 Tony Moeaki
#4 Shonn Greene vs. #5 Chad Greenway
#2 Nate Kaeding vs. #10 Robert Gallery
#3 Bob Sanders vs. #6 Aaron Kampman