When I learned that a kid by the name of Trey Stross had committed to Iowa a little more than a week ago, I was like many Iowa fans in my reaction: Great! Who is Trey Stross?
I had heard the name here and there, but my ignorance can be blamed on a few things. One, June is pretty early in Iowa's traditional recruiting calendar, and two, I had been spending a lot of time focusing on Iowa's offensive line recruits.
So after a little bit of digging around the internet, I began to grow intrigued with Stross.
When you read that a prospect was in his first ever year of track and field in the state of Ohio and qualified for state in the high jump with a successful leap of 6-foot-9 1/2, that grabs your attention. Then you read that he could have cleared 6-10 ½ were it not for his heel clipping the bar, you take even more notice.
Then you learn that he ran a 50.2 400-meters the first year he had ever run the race, and you get downright giddy.
Not to mention finding out that he grabbed 29 passes and had a 27-yards per catch average on the gridiron last year while playing for a state championship team that had a running back go for roughly 3,000 yards.
And oh by the way, he was also the team's punter and had a better than 40-yard average on his kicks.
Get the picture? I know that I did.
Since committing to Iowa last week, Stross had picked up four new scholarship offers, including a written offer from the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Some Iowa fans, including this writer, wondered whether or not his commitment to Iowa was going to spark just such an interest from some traditional powers, including the home state Buckeyes.
And if that were to happen, what would Stross do? Iowa fans still remembered Marcel Frost and his commitment to Iowa, only to be spurned on signing day when Frost signed with the in state Buckeyes.
Early in our interview, Stross gave some comments that should put Iowa minds at ease.
"I recently received a written scholarship offer from Ohio State. Ever since I got back from Iowa and after committing to them, I went from 12 offers to 16, including the offer from Ohio State. I had been told by Ohio State before that they were offering me, but then I got the written offer," said the 6-foot-3 ½, 190-pound Stross.
"Some of the schools that sent me written offers after I got back from Iowa were schools that were telling me that if I came to their camp, they would offer me then. But then I told them I was no longer coming to their camps, and that is when they mailed them."
"When I got the Ohio State offer, I was like, ‘I don't care'. I don't mean that in a bad way or I don't mean to take anything away from Ohio State. They have a great program. But I really want to go to Iowa. I would not have given my commitment to them if I didn't intend to follow through."
"To me, it's like setting goals. You set them, then you accomplish them, and it's time to set new goals. When I committed to Iowa, that was the achievement of one goal. Now the next goal is to get there and make a difference."
"When I got those scholarships, it didn't make me like them any more. There was a part of me that was like, ‘why are they offering me now that I have committed, and why did they tell me before that I needed to come to their camp before they would give me the written offer?' But that is the past. I am a Hawkeye now."
Those words will be music to the ears of Iowa fans from sea to shining sea, because the Hawkeyes landed perhaps one of the most talented natural athletes that I have had the chance to view on film. (I just received the tape, and it will be going in the mail to The Insiders shortly and we hope to have it online within the next several weeks)
Stross is agile, mobile, and to opponents trying to guard him, at times hostile. He is as graceful as a gazelle with the ability to out run would be defenders, or make amazing catches in traffic by jumping over would be defenders, or hitting a home run on a slant or (gasp) jailbreak screen play.
After viewing his tape, it was clear to me that if he had a quarterback that could have hit him in stride, he could have averaged 35 to 40 yards per reception, as mind blowing as that is.
'The Natural' is just that good. And it might be the best nickname for Stross.
Here is the rest of my conversation with Stross.
What was it about Iowa that made you want to pull the trigger and commit to them?
"They came to our school and I got to meet coach (Ken) O'Keefe. The thing about a player like me is that I work better with ‘player's coaches' and that is what Iowa has. They are your coaches, but they are people that you feel you can talk to. They don't get down on you; they just will push you harder. They will make you want to work hard for them. That was the impression that I had."
"I think I will feel like, ‘I have football practice today, I am motivated to get better.' Not like, ‘Oh man, I have football practice today.' Almost like you want to be the best that you can be not only for yourself, but for them, too."
"Coach (Lester) Erb, he coached in the NFL. He is really knowledgeable, and he will teach me. When I was at the camp, we were going through some drills, and obviously, we did things differently at Avon Lake. We don't have a receiver's coach there. I pretty much try to teach the underclassmen things during practice. We won the state title, but we were mostly a running school."
"The things that really impressed me about Iowa and made me want to commit was that they have Coach Doyle and the other strength coaches, the campus is beautiful, it's Big Ten football…there is really nothing else I could have asked for. Great nutrition, great coaches, and the prestige…you just could not ask for better."
Then shortly after you committed, Jake Christensen followed suit. You were able to spend time with him while you camped at Iowa. How did that make you feel?
It made me feel great. When I was at camp, I was with a quarterback, and he probably was not at his best that day. Coach Erb told me to go get with Jake. I said, ‘Who is Jake?' and he pointed him out to me. I worked with him for two sessions, and he easily threw the best passes that I have ever had thrown to me. It was ridiculous, and we pretty much were tight right there.
"After that, we went out to eat (at the Iowa River & Power Company) and hung out. Dan Doering was also there, as was Mike Jones. He was a really nice person and he was really focused on football. He wouldn't even eat a piece of cheesecake."
When I first looked at your measurables, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical. Then I researched you and found them to be fairly well documented. How did you become such a fine athlete? Was it training? Natural ability?
"I am a hard worker, but ever since I was little, no matter what sport I played, I was good at it. Baseball, soccer…this year was my first year in track, and I went to state in the high jump and should have gone in the long jump. My mom was an all-state hurdler and my dad was an all-state (Ohio) quarterback. Throughout my life, I have played most of the skill positions in football. I think most of it is hard work, but I was born with some of it."
"Even though I have worked hard, and with the training I have done, I only feel that I have scratched the surface of what I can become. I see myself as always improving."
Does it excited you think about what you may grow into down the road after spending a few years in Iowa's Strength and Conditioning program, a program that some NFL experts I have spoken with feel is the best such training regimen in the country?
"I have been really inconsistent in my 40 times and my vertical jumps. I usually run my 40 in 4.52, 4.56, 4.58 and I run that out of my two-point stance. I have run under 4.50 before, too. But I think the Iowa guys use the three-point, no matter what position they are, to gain explosiveness."
"With my vertical, I did a 41-inch jump at Penn State, then a 33 at Iowa and another 36. It matters what cycle of training I am in."
"At the Iowa camp, Fred Russell talked about how he came into Iowa with a 31-inch and left with a 41 and that he dropped a few tenths off of his 40 time. That was neat to hear that from the players, not just from the coaches. And Russell was probably one of the best running backs in the country last year."
You sound like you are a competitor, that you really have a desire to be the best. I know that might sound cliché, but it seems that is a part of your makeup. Is that wrong to assume?
"There were some games last year where I felt we could have really poured it on some teams, and we did not. Our big rival is Amhurst. We beat them 20-3, and I had a couple of TD's in that game. I felt like that because it was our rival, and that we might have played them in the playoffs, we should have just crushed their hopes. We were too conservative."
"We had a running back that went for nearly 3,000 yards last year, and I think that had to do with us not being able to throw the ball as well as you would like. Next year, we have a guy stepping in that can really throw it. He is not a tall guy, but he has an arm."
So maybe you will have a few plays where the quarterback can take the ball and then just throw it as far as he can and let you go get it?
"That is what I am hoping for. I think that would be a lot of fun."