It was in our Friday production meetings when Iowa’s Drew Ott said he thought CJ Beathard would have a big game against Ilinois State.
It caught me off guard. He was so definitive about it.
When the question of “Who will have a big game Saturday” was posed to the defensive end, I guess I can’t tell you what answer I expected? Maybe another defensive guy. Maybe himself — though OTT would NEVER say that. (And what a game he DID have, by the way). Maybe I expected him to pick a sleeper player, someone the media hasn’t spent time talking about since January.
But he picked Beathard.
And I guess that’s kinda been the point of all the talk since January.
I guess, it’s also kinda the point that teammates know their teammates the best, too.
What impressed me the most about CJ’s performance last Saturday was the fact he acted like it was his 32nd career start, instead of his 2nd. He had every excuse to show nerves. Expectations. The spotlight. A dozen family members in attendance. Including his uncle, Kurt, on the other sideline as Illinois State’s OC. Don’t forget his grandpa Bobby, the former NFL GM, who was grinning ear-to-ear, when I asked him about watching his son go against his grandson in the pregame.
“He seemed nervous at the beginning of the week,” CJ’s Mom, Susan, told me in the stands before the game. “And then for whatever reason, as the week went on, he seemed to get calmer.”
Susan, CJ’s Dad Casey, and some other family members drove overnight to be at this one in person. CJ’s brother had a high school football game in Memphis Friday night. As soon as it ended, the family hopped in the car and drove nine straight hours.
“We wouldn’t miss this,” Susan smiled.
This game will certainly be talked about next summer, when all of the Beathards gather for their annual get-together. Kurt Beathard said he lives about six miles from his nephew’s home. The families have vacationed together at the beach every year, for the last 25 years.
“CJ loves Iowa,” Kurt Beathard said. “He has always wanted to be there. I know CJ will always work hard to be that guy.”
The man of the Iowa City afternoon didn’t disappoint. He led the Hawkeyes down the field for a TD on their first drive.
“That certainly helps the nerves,” CJ’s Dad admitted.
Nerves? CJ said he didn’t have any. “I don’t feel the pressure,” was his answer to me when I asked him what his biggest emotion was leading into the weekend.
Perhaps that’s why Matt Millen said CJ Beathard is going to be a part of a lot of wins at Iowa. Perhaps that’s why Kirk Ferentz said CJ has matured about five years from last January until now. Perhaps that’s why after CJ’s first TD, Ferentz weaved through the sideline crowd to find his QB sitting on a bench.
He shook his hand and said, “That’s what we expect from you.”
Seems like everyone kinda felt the same way.
You can watch my postgame interview with CJ here. Give it a second to load.
Reports from Columbus next week.