After getting over the initial shock, cooler heads prevailed, as Iowa fans began to turn their attention to other linebacker prospects on Iowa's board for 2005.
One of those linebackers, Upper St. Clair's Sean Lee, has as much of a connection to Kirk Ferentz as any prospect recruited by Iowa since Ferentz arrived in Iowa City in late 1998. There was recently another ripple among the Hawkeye Nation when Lee cancelled his official visit on December 10th, what is shaping up to be the biggest official visit day of the year. But take comfort, Hawkeye fans; there was not as much to that as some might have believed.
"Coach Ferentz is a great man," said Greg Lee, Sean's father. "He is as good as they come in this business, and for how he has treated Sean, I know we have the ultimate respect for that man."
Sean echoed the same sentiments as his father.
"I spoke to Coach Ferentz two weeks ago while he was in Pittsburgh checking on his father, and I was saddened to hear the news that his father had recently passed away. I have nothing but great admiration for Coach Ferentz and his program."
Kirk's father John Ferentz passed away on Sunday at the age of 84.
Lee then explained the reasons for canceling his December 10th visit and if he will still come out to Iowa City.
"I was scheduled to officially visit on Iowa on December 10th, but had to cancel it due to a basketball game I had on that Saturday," said Lee, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder. "We've looked at the weekend after that, but I have to make sure it works out. I can't say there is a 100% guarantee I will visit Iowa, in the case that I fall in a love visiting another school, but I'm almost positive that I will make a visit out to Iowa."
Lee has spoken with Coach (Ken) O'Keefe on a weekly basis, and will be checking out the Hawkeyes in person this coming weekend.
"I'm going to the Penn State/Iowa game this weekend, and am looking forward to it. I want to go to a program where I know I can be successful, and I see that with Iowa. I just wish I were able to make a visit out to see a game at Kinnick Stadium, as it looks awesome there. I was watching ESPN Classic and they showed the 85' game between Iowa and Michigan when they were ranked #1 and #2. They had to keep quieting down the crowd, and it was just crazy out there," stated Lee.
He was referring to Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh backing out from under center during that 1985 contest, as there was an NCAA rule in place at the time where officials could penalize the home crowd for being ‘too loud', and not giving the opposing offense a chance to call a play due to the noise. Thankfully, that rule is no longer in place.
Sean then went a bit further with his thoughts about Iowa.
"They are going to be competing for the Big Ten title for years to come and they have great fan support. The only thing holding me back from Iowa is the distance, as I want to be able to have my parents watch me play. However, they (his parents) are very supportive of whatever decision I make, and they will be coming out with me on my official visit where I'm sure I'll get a feeling for Iowa," Lee said.
Lee obviously will also be paying close attention to the Nittany Lions this coming weekend after receiving a recent offer.
"It would be a privilege to play under Coach (Joe) Paterno as he is a coaching icon," added Lee, who has rushed for nearly 900 yards in seven games of action this fall. "He is still a great coach, and Penn State has made no indication that he won't be there during my four or five years as they point out he just signed that five year contract extension."
Lee, who has grown quite a bit in the past year from 200 to 215 pounds, has started to identify the position he believes best suits him in college.
"Some people have mentioned strong safety, but I know I'm probably going to be a linebacker in college. Iowa has talked to me about playing weakside linebacker (what Iowa calls its WILL, where Chad Greenway plays), but they aren't totally sure because they don't know how much I will grow," Lee said.
So how much does Lee believe he will grow?
"Well, I only shave once every two to three weeks, and I know my father and brother shave everyday, so maybe that is a sign," joked Lee. "I really don't know if I will grow any taller, but I do know I'm going to put on some weight. Heck, if I have to be 260 or 270 and play defensive end to help the team and get out on the field, I will do it."
As Iowa fans were passing along their condolences to Kirk Ferentz and his family today on message boards and in emails due to the passing of his father John Ferentz, Greg Lee shared a story of another special person in Coach Ferentz's life that recently passed away, Joe Moore.
"I was a high school graduate in 1975 and went to a Catholic school," stated the elder Lee. "I remember watching our team play against Coach Moore's, and I'd be sitting there crying because I wanted to play for Coach Moore so badly. That is the same kind of man Kirk Ferentz has become."
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