Every once in a while, the great ones pass before our eyes. If we're lucky enough, we soak it up and realize we're seeing something special. The problem is that too often we take it for granted.
It's probably just human nature. As the years tick away, we wait for the next Dallas Clark or expect another form of Robert Gallery or Bob Sanders to come along. Thankfully time allows us to see that offensive lines like 2002 don't drop out of trees.
Hopefully, you're all absorbing the play of Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. You're witnessing one of those times that likely will be a long time in repeating itself, if we're lucky enough for it even to happen again.
Fans have felt the need to take shots at Iowa's dynamic duo this season when the defensive looked more like Swiss cheese and less like the force of resistance we've grown accustomed to seeing around here. Those what-have-done-for-me-lately fans should have stepped back and thought about the Hawkeyes without their hard-hitting linebackers.
Greenway and Hodge could have jetted for the NFL after last season. Greenway likely would have been a first-round pick, and his running mate would have been drafted and earned a roster spot somewhere. Hodge was and is terribly underrated.
Instead, they chose to return to a defense that had lost its entire defensive line. In many ways, that would have been like a top-flight quarterback or running back returning with an entirely new offensive line. Chances were good that they were going to look bad at times.
"There were a lot of people when I told them that I was definitely going to come back for my senior year, the first thing they brought up was that we were losing all of our guys up front and people might double team you a little bit more," Hodge said.
"When you're a football player, you're always going to have different challenges. Everything is not going to be perfect. Every year is going to be different. I've always been a person that's up for challenges."
Greenway or Hodge likely will increase their draft position this season over where it might have been last year, but it's unlikely to be a dramatic difference. If they do move up, they might just be recovering the checks they would be cashing this season.
Luckily, Iowa means more to these guys than money. They really do care a great deal for this program.
"This program gave me an opportunity to come and play college football and nobody else did," Greenway said. "I felt like I wouldn't be giving my full attention to the university if I would have left early. Nobody is bigger than this program or ever will be. I just wanted to be a part of it for as many years as possible."
Greenway probably risked the most in coming back for his senior year. NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. tabbed him as his top overall junior at one point last spring and figured him as a cinch first-rounder. Instead, he returned to college and admitted that the young defensive line may have caused him and Hodge to look bad at times this year.
"And that's something that I'm completely happy with because we hung in there as a team, we stuck together and we've kept improving at all levels," Greenway said. "I take more stock in that personally than anybody telling me that I played bad or something. Staying here and helping those young guys over that first hurdle and pushing them is going to mean more to me than leaving early."
Here's a reminder in case you forgot the lead-in to this column – ATTENTION – these guys are special. And it goes way beyond Greenway leading the conference in tackles (93) or Hodge ranking fourth (80). They're here because they care about this program.
Greenway and Hodge also wanted to improve and realized Iowa's coaching staff could help in that area.
"Probably just being able to be more physical against the linemen and have better hands, that was probably the biggest knock on me from what I saw," Greenway said. "Maybe there was some inexperience to a point just because I haven't played (linebacker) as long. But I've been in college for four and half years now. If you haven't got it figured out by now, it's maybe never going to happen."
Said Hodge: "(Coming back) was almost like a no-brainer. Obviously, I feel like I needed to get better. Also, I really believed that we had a chance to do some good things this year. I still do. I just wanted to come back and play my last year because college football as been fun. Once it's over, it's over. All you do is be a spectator or a coach after that. I'm just trying to enjoy my last year and help this team get some more wins."
As crazy as it sounds, Iowa's feeling-out process on defense this season could benefit its star linebackers. The Hawkeyes move them all over the field and at times employ a 3-4 front, something scouts hadn't seen them play in much with the Hawkeyes.
"I don't know what (the NFL scouts) look for, but it's definitely a plus," Hodge said. "No one can say that the reason that Chad and Abdul have been making plays (in the past) or might seem like good linebackers is because of the guys that play in front of them. Right now, we have a lot of young guys that never even started a game. We played two true freshmen with Bain and Kanellis. We've been doing the same thing since we got here."
Said Greenway: "Maybe it will benefit me. I don't know. Versatility is always a good thing in being able to put your hand down and play defensive end or dropping into a safety. It's something that maybe will be able to help me in the future. If it doesn't, I've done everything I could to help my team win here. If that's all I get out of it, that's OK with me."
NFLdraftcountdown.com predicts Greenway to go to the Chicago Bears with the No. 7 overall pick this spring. Football.com lists Greenway as the No. 1 OLB and Hodge as its No. 2 ILB.
Soak it up, Hawk fans. You really are witnessing a special time in this program's history.