Erik Jensen: A Sort of Homecoming

Erik Jensen is a Wisconsin native and had a scholarship offer from the Badgers as a senior in high school. Wisconsin was coming off of a Rose Bowl appearance and Iowa was coming off of a 3-8 record and Hayden Fry was retiring. Yet Jensen fell in love with Iowa City and the football program and he was Kirk Ferentz's first recruit. Jensen returns home this week and Rob Howe spoke with him yesterday.

Is this special for you to go back home in your last regular season game?

I always like going back to Wisconsin. I always have a lot of friends and family that can make it to that game. It's always a fun game for me.

How much did Wisconsin recruit you, and how did you end up here?

They offered me before my senior year, and they were recruiting me hard. I just liked it here better. That's about it.

Were you Kirk's first recruit?


Does that mean anything to you?

I don't know. I was committed to coach Fry. I just liked the school. I liked the program. I liked Coach Ferentz. I liked the program once I met him. It really doesn't mean that much to me. I just really liked it here and wanted to be here.

So you committed to Coach Fry in the fall of '98 or before that?


How long did it take you to decide that you were going to stay with it?

Once I came on my official visit, I committed right away to them again.

Was it hard to go against your home state school?

Yeah, because they were winning. I think they had just gone to the Rose Bowl. All of my friends were giving me problems, saying that I should be going there because they were a winning program. I got a lot of flack for that stuff. Now that we've turned it around, nobody has really given me any problems. We're a winning program now, too.

Did you have confidence that this would happen?

Yeah. I had confidence. I didn't want to come to a losing program and never win games. So, I had total confidence that we were going to be a winning program.

Are you excited about being named captain this week?

I didn't even know I was (laughter). That's great. (laughter)

Does it mean much to finish up your last regular season game in your home state?

Yeah. As a team, I want to get a win and get a better bowl game and finish up the season strong. But personally, I've never won up there. It's just something personally that I'd like to do. I've got a lot of friends and a lot of family that will be there. It's always nice to play in front of a lot of people that I know.

It worked out well that Wisconsin is the last regular season game.

Yeah. It's about as close to a home game that I can get without being in Kinnick. It worked out good in that way.

How far is Appleton from Madison?

It's like an hour and a half to two hours. It depends on traffic.

Did you grow up a Wisconsin fan?

Yeah. You are a Badger and Packers fan if you're from Wisconsin. If you're not, you're an outsider. That's how it goes.

You went to their football camps.

In eighth grade. I met (Iowa strength and conditioning Coach Chris) Doyle there. I bought his program in eighth grade going into ninth grade.

Was it funny walking in here and walking in the weight room and seeing Doyle in there?

Yeah. I was actually really excited because I really believed in his philosophy. Before him, there wasn't much Olympic lifting and stuff. I just really liked what he was doing and really liked him as a person.

How do you feel about your performance this season?

I can't complain. I'm having fun playing a lot. I've never been a big pass threat. I'm more of a blocking kind of guy. I think in my career I've got less than 10 balls thrown to me. I've gotten more than that this season. So, how can I complain? Getting the ball a couple of times a game is all that I can ask for.

Are you healthy right now?

Yeah. I'm feeling good.

Are you going to be avoiding those who are sick?

Yeah. I got my flu shot. I've been on medication. I'm doing everything I can to not get sick. I hope I don't.

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