Life has changed in a big-time way for Clinton Solomon.
A year ago, he was preparing to play football for Eastern Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, which drew about 150 fans for its home games.
Now – even though he admits to being nervous – Solomon is ready to be Iowa's second-team split end behind Ed Hinkel in Saturday's 11:10 a.m. season opener against Akron. The game is expected to draw about 60,000 fans in 70,397-seat Kinnick Stadium.
Throughout most of his high school career, Solomon was a quarterback, and that's the position he was recruited for by Iowa's coaches. Now, however, he's catching passes instead of throwing them.
In high school, Solomon wore uniform No. 10. But when he arrived on Iowa's campus, second-team quarterback Nathan Chandler already owned No. 10. Then Solomon briefly went to No. 4. But, after Benny Sapp was kicked off the Hawkeyes' roster, Solomon was assigned Sapp's old No. 3 jersey.
The move from quarterback to split end is the most curious for the pleasant young man who answers some questions from reporters with the words, "Yes, sir.''
But Solomon indicated there should really be no mystery why he made the position switch.
"Yes, I was recruited as a quarterback, but as time went on I thought about it, and other guys thought playing receiver would be good for me,'' he explained. "I saw how many quarterbacks we have here, and I thought about the entire situation back home in Texas over the summer.
"So, when I came here, I talked to Coach O'Keefe (Ken O'Keefe, Iowa's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) and told him I preferred to be a receiver. I ran pass routes and worked on my speed during the summer, and didn't throw passes. I worked out with the backup quarterback from my high school and a couple of quarterbacks from Texas Christian.''
Solomon said Texas Christian was among the many schools that tried to recruit him. He said most of the major universities in his home state—Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas Christian—were interested in him. He added that such schools as Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were among other schools that tried to land him.
In fact, Solomon mistakenly said "Iowa State'' when reviewing his recruiting trip to Iowa City last winter that included a Big Ten basketball game.
When I asked him what game he saw, he began to say, "Iowa State against.....'' Then he caught himself.
"I hate the Cyclones!'' he said with a smile, perhaps thinking that people expected him to say it. "The game I saw was Iowa against Penn State, and the crowd was unbelievable. I didn't make a visit to Iowa State, but they tried to recruit me as a secondary receiver.
"When it came down to choosing a college, I decided I wanted to leave Texas. I was impressed with the fan support, the coaching staff and education here at Iowa.''
Coach Kirk Ferentz said it's fair to say that Solomon has been Iowa's biggest surprise of the freshman in the preseason.
"He's probably going to hit the wall here a little bit at some point,'' Ferentz said. "Don't be surprised if that happens. Young guys tend to do that. In (the recruiting process), we envisioned him being a receiver. So that wasn't a surprise. The only thing we couldn't tell by watching his high school tapes was how good his hands were.
"But Ron Aiken (an Iowa assistant coach whose recruiting territory includes Texas) had a chance to watch him play basketball. We were really impressed with his athleticism on the court. And, when we had a chance to meet the young man, he's a very impressive young individual with good size and range, and is very fluid on the field.
Solomon was an all-conference quarterback in his junior and senior seasons at Eastern Hills High School. As a junior, he passed for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns, and also ran for 290 yards and six touchdowns.
As a senior, he threw for 813 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran for 261 yards and six touchdowns.
"I did play three games as a receiver last season,'' he said. "I caught one ball for a 95-yard gain. From that point on, I started thinking about being a receiver.''
"My eyes will light up when we have crowd of 70,000 here,'' he said.
If I've been asked once, I've been asked a half-dozen times if Gerry Faust—the former Notre Dame coach—is still coaching Akron.
The answer is no.
Akron's fans haven't had Faust to kick around ever since he had a 1-10 record in 1994. He was 5-6 with Zips in 1988, 6-4-1 in 1989, 3-7-1 in 1990, 5-6 in 1991, 7-3-1 in 1992, and 5-6 in 1993 before the 1-10 in 1994 did him in.
Lee Owens is in his eighth season as Akron's coach. His record is 29-48. He came to the school after being an assistant at Ohio State from 1992-94.
Vol. 2, No. 53
Aug. 28, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ]