Weisman transitions from Air Force to Iowa


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Mark Weisman made it through six-week military boot camp. He woke up early every day to run miles and miles. He watched the football body he had worked so hard to build shrink by 25 pounds, with nothing he could do to stop it.

And he’s supposed to struggle mentally with one dropped pass?

“I think I could’ve made the play. It’s a play I expect to make,” Weisman said about his drop in the end zone against Iowa State on Sept. 8. “It just didn’t happen on that particular play.  It’s hard to let it go, but you have to. We’re moved on from that.”

Weisman’s drop, on a James Vandenberg pass from the 3-yard line, was his first real moment in the spotlight in a Hawkeye uniform. It didn’t go as he had hoped. But the transfer fullback from Air Force Academy had been crushing defenders with blocks regularly for almost two full games before that moment.

“He’s great,” running back Damon Bullock said. “He blows up huge holes for me. It makes it way easier for me to make my reads.”

Weisman, a Buffalo Grove, Ill., native, committed to play for Air Force out of high school. He said on Tuesday that he had wanted to join the military, and Air Force’s use of the fullback in its offense made it an attractive football destination. 

Before school — and two-a-day practices — started, Weisman had to get through basic training. He said the rigid lifestyle was more difficult mentally than camp was physically. And after a semester there, Weisman realized “it wasn’t the place for me.”

That brought him to Iowa, where he sat out a year before coaches could unleash him. Few observers knew Weisman’s name before fall camp this year, and junior Brad Rogers was the widely presumed starting fullback. But head coach Kirk Ferentz called Weisman “as improved as anybody on our team” after fall camp, and the sophomore was named the starter.

Weisman’s punishing strength and speed have earned him a nickname from his teammates.

“You can tell by his body he came from a military school,” Bullock said. “He’s like a juggernaut.”
That was familiar to Vandenberg.

“The Juggernaut. Great word for him,” the quarterback said. “I call him that a lot. I don’t know who came up with it, but he even kind of walks like one. He’s got so much muscle that he’s stiff.”

Weisman said this week he enjoys the additional freedom he has outside a military academy. But the values that brought him there in the first place are still with him. Bullock, who has roomed with Weisman on the road this season, said you could still see it.

“He has a demeanor about him,” he said. “Every once in a while something will come out from Mark, and it’s like, ‘Man, you’re at Iowa now. You’re not at the Air Force anymore.’ ”

But that attitude, Weisman insists, has helped him. Especially when it comes to moving on from something like a drop.

“It’s nice [to be away from the Air Force],” he said. “But I took a lot of good things from there. The mentality of keeping all the distractions away.”

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