Hawkeye on Hawkeye

Mobile, Ala. - Paul Burmeister is the NFL Network's host for its Senior Bowl coverage this week in Mobile, Ala., but as a former Iowa quarterback, Burmeister also has insight into fellow Hawkeye and NFL Draft prospect Ricky Stanzi. Scout caught up with Burmeister to discuss Stanzi and what it means to be part of the Hawkeye quarterback club.

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Paul Burmeister may be better known as the NFL Network's host for such shows as College Football Now, Path to the Draft, and anchoring the network's coverage of the Under Armour Senior Bowl. But as quarterback and captain of the 1993 Iowa Hawkeyes, Burmeister also welcomes Senior Bowl participant Ricky Stanzi to the club that is made up of former Iowa quarterbacks. A close knit group that stays in touch often.

"I think it means more to the guys as they get further and further away from it," answered Burmeister when asked what the group has meant to him. "So right now for Ricky, he's probably not thinking about that a whole lot. But as you get older you come to really value the time that you were able to spend there. It's a very small fraternity of guys who were fortunate enough to play quarterback at Iowa. So when you get into your later 20's and 30's and almost 40 like me, it's fun to spend time around guys who had the exact experience as you from the age 19 to 22."

While it's a small fraternity of guys, Burmeister is eager to help welcome a new member in Stanzi.

Iowa QBs of Note
'59-'61Wilburn Hollis
'62 Matt Szykowny
'63-65 Gary Snook
'66-68 Ed Podolak
'82-'85 Chuck Long
'86 Mark Vlasic
'87 Dan McGwire
'88 Chuck Hartlieb
'89-'91 Matt Rodgers
'92 Jim Hartlieb
'93 Paul Burmeister
'95-97 Matt Sherman
'02 Brad Banks
'03 Nathan Chandler
'04-'06 Drew Tate
'08-'10 Ricky Stanzi
"We welcome Ricky in. He's got other clubs he wants to join first," Burmeister said with a nod that acknowledged the NFL, "but there's plenty of room and Ricky appears to be a great guy."

As a former Iowa quarterback, Burmeister has kept a close eye on Stanzi as a three year starter up through every snap at the Senior Bowl. He's been impressed with what he's seen from Stanzi as he's progressed through his career.

"I think he's grown in a number of really important ways. First of all, I'll draw kind of a parallel between he and Matt Rodgers. Matt Rodgers was a quarterback my true freshman year in 1989, who wasn't really expected to play a lot then and ended up being our starter the entire season and didn't really have a great year. Once he got that experience under his belt, he was terrific his final two years. Ricky Stanzi, his first couple years was OK. He had a lot of good games, but really as a whole he was more decent than he was really good."

Rodgers saw his completion percentage rise from 57.1% to 65.3% from his sophomore to senior seasons, and Burmeister credits that same experience for Stanzi's growth as a passer. 

"So he comes into his senior year with 22 starts and he excels. He takes that experience, and he just squeezed that final opportunity for all it was worth. That's what people really want to see. You made a lot of mistakes. You had a lot of good games, but your senior year you're going to do a lot more good than bad. And I think he really did that similarly the way Matt Rodgers did. The mistakes [are] in the rearview mirror, have a great final run at it, and he did."

Burmeister points to two statistical breakthroughs when discussing Stanzi's maturity. 

"He jumped his completion percentage from about 56 to 64 which is a very significant jump. To be seen as a really efficient college quarterback, you need to be in the 60's. He took care of that. He took that touchdown to interception ratio from 17/15 to 25/6. Physically, he looks like an NFL quarterback, then you look at what he did production-wise from sophomore/junior to senior [year]. He made that huge jump. He's a guy I could see 3rd/4th round getting a really good opportunity."

Every morning as the players come down to the lobby of the hotel to get ready for practice, there's a chance for players to be interviewed by NFL personnel. Stanzi was a popular interview with the scouts, and each of them seemed to mention his hair cut.

Burmeister laughed when told of the scouts interest in Stanzi's lack of locks.

Stanzi at Senior Bow

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"He's a smart kid. He realizes everything, whether it should be scrutinized or not, is going to be scrutinized."

Staying in NFL personnel mode, Burmeister gave a brief projection for Stanzi and the NFL Draft.

"I think he's a guy that's not going to wow you enough to sneak into the first or probably the second round, but like I said, the senior year production was fantastic. And he's one of these guys where more research the scouts do on him, the more they like him. He was a great leader; he's a hard worker. He's a likable kid with a great presence. I don't know if I could see him going higher than the third round, but I think he's worked himself into a solid third round pick."

Burmeister spent a lot of time watching Stanzi at Iowa, but what have his impressions been of him after seeing him in person at Senior Bowl practices?

"First of all, he's a bigger kid than I thought. Right away I made it a priority to go introduce myself to him and talk to him, and I found myself looking up to him a little bit (Stanzi measured 6'4.1/221). He's a pretty big, thick kid, so he certainly looks the part. You don't have to talk yourself into liking who he is physically. He throws the ball really well. throws it a little better than I thought. Again he doesn't wow you enough, doesn't throw it like a first rounder would throw it. But this is a kid, again I keep coming back to it, who's really worked himself from being 'OK he's decent; he'll get a shot. 7th rounder, free agent' to a third or fourth round kind of guy. Physically he's a little more impressive than I thought he was going to be."

The NFL can be a rude awakening to players who are used to being warmly embraced by their fans and college communities. Even the best of players get chewed up by the NFL evaluation meat grinder. Stanzi will be no exception and Burmeister knows some of the critiques Stanzi is likely to face as scouts break down his game.

"I think probably most importantly, Iowa didn't finish well. When a team doesn't finish well, the coaches are going to get questioned and the quarterback is going to get questioned. When the quarterback now has 30+ starts and the team tailspins a little bit. November was a terrible month for Iowa, and there were close games where the offense, they were tough opportunities, but had the opportunity to come back and win, and the offense didn't do so. Was that all Ricky's fault? Of course not. But everything is scrutinized, and I think the number one knock on Ricky is, why didn't he lead his team to victories in November? And I think that's where the negative stuff will start with him."

When thinking of teams who consistently outperform the recruiting rankings, Iowa is a team that springs to mind immediately. Burmeister knows that success is no accident. He goes into more detail when asked what advice he would have for a future member of the ex-Hawkeye quarterback club.

"I would say first of all enjoy the fact that Kirk Ferentz is the head coach. That is one of the best [head coaches] in the country. To be involved with that program and have the chance to lead that program under that kind of guy, that's pretty special.

With the kind of experiences at the University of Iowa, it's the No. 1 game in town. You're talking about sellout stadiums, a Big Ten kind of atmosphere. Kirk values recruiting a kind of kid, and I mean this in a complimentary way, you're not going to be joining a program with prima donna 5-Star athletes. You're walking into a program where it's a self made program and from the quarterback to the defensive linemen to the kicker, these are self made players. These are guys that overachieve. They take what they've got; they work their ass off, and they get better. That's not for everybody, that's not sexy enough for a lot of people, but that's what the Iowa program is. And I think for a lot of kids, it's a pretty attractive way to spend five years."

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