Chuck Long, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1985, is the greatest quarterback in Iowa history.
Ricky Stanzi ranks among the top three.
Ask Long about Stanzi’s best qualities and he indirectly alludes to one of the few things Stanzi accomplished that Long did not during his college career. Stanzi is the only Iowa quarterback – and just the third Big Ten quarterback – to start and win three bowl games: the Outback, Orange and Insight.
He went 26-9 as a starter and directed several second-half comebacks, including a 15-13 victory over Michigan State in 2009 which he threw a seven-yard touchdown on the final play of the game.
“I think he’s a competitor. I think he’s a winner,” said Long, the offensive coordinator at Kansas who spent six seasons in the NFL. “That was very evident … he brought his team back numerous times, especially in his junior year. And had a lot of last-minute victories. That’s always a very good sign in your evaluation of quarterbacks.”
Stanzi doesn’t quicken the pulse like other quarterback prospects. He doesn’t have Ryan Mallett’s arm. Or Jake Locker’s legs. Or Cam Newton’s freakish blend of size and athleticism. The most frequent criticisms involve his so-so arm and underwhelming athleticism.
But the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Stanzi started 35 games in a pro-style offense and appears to possess many of the intangibles Niners coach Jim Harbaugh wants in a quarterback. Harbaugh, who attended Stanzi’s workout Monday in Iowa City, prefers football-obsessed, film-room junkies at the quarterback position and Stanzi grades well in that area. At the scouting combine, Harbaugh said passion, work ethic and intelligence were strongly considered when he put signal-callers under the microscope.
“Understand do they love football? Do they like to work at the game? How much do they understand the game? Will they be a fit for our team? Those are all critical evaluations,” Harbaugh said.
Stanzi went from the most frequently intercepted quarterback in the Big Ten in 2009 to a mid-round draft prospect due, in large part, to his desire and dedication, according to this Quad-City Times article.
Long, who has kept tabs on Stanzi’s career due to his connection to Iowa, calls Stanzi an excellent game-manager who will benefit from his extensive experience in a pro-style offense.
That may not generate many headlines or quicken many pulses, but it might help explain Harbaugh’s trip to Iowa City this week.
“I think he’s a young man that plays within himself,” Long said. “There are quarterbacks that don’t do that. They try to force the ball and they try to do something that they’re not capable of doing. I think he’s a young man that knows himself and knows how to manage the game without getting too fancy.”