Professional, Personal Lives Meet for Ferentz

While is team rallied to enjoy a nice 2008 season, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was dealing with off the field incidents involving his middle son, James. The notoriously private family dealt with bad press and moved on. Senior Writer Rob Howe writes a feature on how the Ferentz family got through it.

CHICAGO - A.J. Edds grew up in the public eye. The Iowa linebacker drew attention to himself with his athletic prowess at a young age and his father served as superintendent of his high school.

That relationship helped Edds relate to what Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz, his son, James, and their family went through in the last year. James, a true freshman center, was cited twice for alcohol related offenses, the last one of which caused him to miss half of spring practice.

"It's not necessarily the same capacity, but I know what James is going through in being the boss' kid," Edds said during the Big Ten Kickoff Event here on Tuesday. "I know the spotlight and the target that goes into being that. It's just that much more responsibility that gets put on you when everybody knows who you are. There's added pressure and expectations.

"Maybe it's fair. Maybe it's not. But it's something you have to deal with"

James' news landed on the front page of state papers and trickled out to national media outlets like ESPN. While he was cited for minor offenses, his father's stature heightened interest in the story.

Coach Ferentz and his wife, Mary, have worked hard to keep their private and professional lives separate, but they collided in this instance.

"It's tough," Ferentz said. "I would suspect that most families go through things. Probably the biggest difference is that ours are a lot more public.

"That hasn't bothered me as much from the standpoint of how I feel about it. I always worry about how any kid would feel about it and certainly one of our kids. You can argue if it's fair or not. But he knew that when he signed on. His older brother knew it when he signed on. It's just the nature of the beast."

Brian Ferentz, who now works for the New England Patriots, finished his playing career at Iowa with the 2005 season. He stayed clear of the law in college but found his name in the headlines when a state paper focused on him in writing about Iowa football players living in subsidized housing.

"I think we're like any parents," Ferentz said about he and Mary‘s position. "We're worried about our kids. We're worried about how they're feeling, how they're handling the circumstance, and then also, as a parent, how they handle it at the other end. Are they learning from it and moving on or is it going the other direction? We're not different from anybody else from that standpoint."

Edds looked on at the dynamic during the last year and witnessed the toll it took on the Ferentz family.

"Knowing James, I know that James felt bad," Edds said. "James knows the position he put his dad in and the position he put himself in and us. Brian was a great player at Iowa and he put Brian in a tough position with the Patriots. Brian would go to work and guys would ask him what's going on with his little brother.

"James knows what he did to kind of take a little bit of a black eye for everybody he's involved with. It definitely hit home with James and with coach. I know that coach's wife is a very central part of coach's success and what coach does with James and Brian and with their kids' success. James definitely heard it at home."

Ferentz said he's witnessed growth in his middle son since the incidents.

"I talk to (James) almost daily so it's pretty evident to me," the coach said. "But it's like anything else in life, we'll know more in four years

"Probably the down side for him is that I'm probably a little more firm with him than the other guys and that's just the way it is. But he knew that, too. I think he understood that coming in. That's part of the challenge when your old man is the coach, I guess."

James was competing for the starting center position this spring before his second infraction. Kirk said that his son has fallen behind Josh Koeppel and Rafael Eubanks in that race and that James would sit out the season opener against Northern Iowa for his transgression.

Ferentz experienced a lot of joy coaching Brian and looked forward to sharing that with James in the future. He felt like it's helped the relationship being the head coach as opposed to their position coach.

"In most cases, and I said the same thing about Brian, there's enough insulation," Kirk said. "If I were his position coach, I'm not so sure it would be a great idea that he was there. It would have been tough for Brian and I and it would be tough for James and I. But being as I'm the head coach, there's a little insulation. That makes it doable."

The Ferentz family seems to have rallied nicely from the rocky time.

"Again, we're like any family," the coach said. "Siblings help each other and (Brian has) been down that road. He tried to educate James on the front end, too. And James watched Brian live it.

"Yeah, we're a family and everybody helps each other, but there are some things you just have to experience for yourself."


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