Myers plays through pain to take the trophy back home
Boone Myers’ eyes said it all as they darted back and forth on the slow walk from the Iowa sideline over to a corner of Jack Trice Stadium that was littered with Iowa fans Saturday afternoon in Ames.
Just try to take this trophy from me. Just try.
No one did.
The Cy-Hawk trophy was headed back east for the third straight fall following the Hawkeyes’ thrilling come-from-behind 44-41 overtime victory over Iowa State and Myers, the 2013 Webster City High School graduate, was going to make sure it got there in one piece.
“It’s awesome,” Myers said after the celebration inside the Hawkeyes’ locker room had subsided. “Three years in a row, senior year, working with these guys. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life.”
Whether you bleed black and gold, or favor the cardinal and gold, you’ve got to agree on one thing: that was one helluva football game that had a little bit of everything. Big plays, big hits, twists and turns and moments when both fan bases thought they were cooked.
When Iowa pushed its lead to 21-10 midway through the third quarter, there were a lot of worried looks on the majority of the 61,500 faces crammed inside the rocking stadium. And less than eight minutes later, after Iowa State had ripped off 21 consecutive points to push in front 31-21, not many of the Hawkeye faithful thought they’d be going home happy.
“Every year there’s a lot of hype and a lot of talk about this game and I think it’s so good for the entire state,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “(Saturday) the game certainly lived up to all that hype. It was a heck of a football game.”
The longstanding narrative that the series means more to the Cyclones than the Hawkeyes is garbage and one that needs to go away. Did you see the video of starting center James Daniels in the stands dancing with fans during the post-game celebration? Enough said.
For Myers, the game held even more meaning. Don’t get me wrong, beating the Hawkeyes’ instate rival was priority No. 1, but just getting back on the field and smacking someone in the mouth put an extra giddy-up in the 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman’s step.
Preseason camp was anything but fun for Myers, who dealt with a high ankle sprain throughout the month of August. The injury put the two-year starter’s status in limbo as Iowa prepared to open the season.
Myers was listed as the starter at left tackle for the opener against Wyoming, but instead watched most of the game from the sideline.
“A little bit,” Myers said when asked if it’s been frustrating in recent weeks. “Two years being remotely healthy, this year has been so up and down with the ankle.”
That’s the way Saturday’s Cy-Hawk showdown began for him, too. He was more of a spectator instead of a contributor on an offensive line that many prognosticators say is one of the best in the country.
But when right tackle Ike Boettger went down with an injury in the third quarter, the shuffle began. Still noticeably hobbling, Myers entered the game at left guard. He played a series or two at tackle as well, but was at guard for Iowa’s pivotal drives late in the fourth quarter and into overtime.
The more defenders he shoved to the side, the less he limped. By the time he hefted the trophy onto his shoulder, the ankle looked as good as new.
“I’m feeling good and it was good to get out there and play football,” Myers said. “Once we got rolling it was awesome. It was just like riding a bike.”
Iowa needs Myers back at full strength and quickly. Ferentz sounded more grim than optimistic about Boettger’s status following the game, which means the musical chairs mentality that the Hawkeyes have been forced to use with their offensive line in recent years will likely happen once again.
“It sounds like an Achilles, so that’s not a good thing,” Ferentz said of Boettger’s injury. “Done for the season if that’s the case. The good news is it looked like Boone was cranking pretty good out there and based on what I saw in the locker room I think he’s ready to go. So I think we’re gaining ground there.”
One of Myers’ greatest strengths is his versatility. Left tackle has been his home for much of his time at Iowa, but he showed Saturday he’s more than capable at guard. Could he also be moved over to right tackle? It’s possible.
But those are all things Iowa will worry about in the coming days. On Saturday, as Myers got ready to board the bus and head back east, he was still savoring the win.
One side celebrates. One side bemoans what might have been. That’s what this series has become, and it’s why it’s so fun for everyone involved.