Many have wondered if Vernon Rollins was still able to play his senior season, if Coach Fry may have been able to end his last season with a better record. Vernon would have easily added enough star power to the defense to make it one of the best in the Big Ten, to go along with Eric Thigpen and Jared DeVries.
"There are times that I wonder what if I would taken myself out when we were up 35-0 against Iowa State," Vernon said. "However, it was just a freakish accident where my hamstring could not hold up. They ran an out pattern with their tight end. When I went for the tackle, their tight end tried to cut back. I attempted to set my feet and my hamstring just did not catch up so I could just feel my leg blow out."
Vernon suffered tears to the ACL and MCL joints in his leg. It was an injury that would hamper any athlete's career and demands a rigorous rehabilition regimen. In fact, Vernon even practiced a little bit in attempt to play his senior season.
"I got out on the field and I just knew immediately that I was not the same player. I was not good enough to be out there in the Big Ten playing as a linebacker. When I saw my pro aspirations go out off the window, I did not see any reason to possibly further injure myself when I was not talented enough to be out there."
Vernon now works selling security contracts in Cedar Rapids. Vernon is not married, but is involved in a serious relationship. In fact, Vernon still remains involved in Iowa City.
"I still speak to some of the current players from time to time. Mostly, it is the older guys who were entering when I was still with the program, like Ladell Betts. They all seem very high on the program and it seems to be taking them places. I have heard Ladell is liking it quite well with the Redskins. I try to catch as many Hawkeye games as possible, but sometimes it is just too cold."
Vernon even had ties to one of Iowa's bigger priorities the past few recruiting seasons.
"I spoke to DB Johnny Sylvain when we would run into each other. I placed a few calls to see if I could help him in any recruiting questions he may have. He knew I went to Iowa, but we talked more than just Hawks. We talked about recruiting in general. It was hard for him to turn down any of the coaches."
Everyone has heard the story of Vernon almost catching a plane back home in plans to transfer to Syracuse. I asked Vernon about that and what all took place.
"I was deadset about leaving Iowa and had my bags packed. Coach Fry called all the airlines and told them not to let me leave. I wanted to leave because I felt I was lied to a bit about the things I was promised when I was recruited. However, Coach Fry and Brashier sat down with me and went over the situation. They made me feel comfortable again at Iowa."
So does Vernon hold any regret at all in his decision to attend Iowa?
"I loved my days in Iowa City as it was a lot of fun. My junior year, we should have been playing in the Rose Bowl. There are times I thought why did I not take a long look at Nebraska and gain a few national championship rings. I also think about the fun I could have had at Miami(FL). I remember I would have officially visted there, but my coach talked me into visiting Rutgers, instead. However, who knows how things would have worked out at those places. I am fine with my days at Iowa."
So what other schools did Vernon almost attend while in high school?
"My mother really wanted me to go to Michigan. However, I did not like Coach Moeller during the recruiting process. Georgia Tech was great with everything they did during my recruitment. However, I chose to attend Iowa."
Vernon was 6'3 210 when coming out of Hackensack, NJ. Vernon quickly had no problem getting up in the 240-245 range. However, he wonders about what he could have done if he was playing now at Iowa.
"I am good friends with Coach Longo and I think he did a good job. However, seeing what Coach Doyle is doing with some of these players is just incredible. It would have been fun to be in his strength and conditioning program."
Hawk fans will have to relish the thoughts of what Vernon could possibly have done in a Hawkeye uniform this fall. Norm Parker sure would not mind having a player of Vernon's capabilites in his linebacking corp right now. Vernon will always leave Hawk fans knowing the Jersey connection can happen. Hopefully, Coach Ferentz and staff will be able to pull some one from the Garden State that has both the talent of Vernon on the field, and also his presence off the field.