Nick Niemann a productive leader on Iowa’s defense during career senior season

The linebacker’s father is a coach on the team, and his brother played for the Hawkeyes from 2014-17.


David Harmantas

Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann (49) looks into the backfield during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Saturday is Senior Day for the Iowa football team, and it will honor 22 seniors before facing Wisconsin.

One of those seniors is linebacker Nick Niemann. The Sycamore, Illinois, native has played for the Hawkeyes since the 2017 season after redshirting in 2016. He expects Saturday to be his last game at Kinnick Stadium if the ninth game of the season isn’t played in Iowa City.

“I think it’s going to be in my best interest to move on and try to pursue the NFL after the season,” Niemann said. “So, that’s what it looks like right now. Obviously, not totally sure. Going to finish the season off and see if I feel the same way.”

After a memorable pick-six late in the 2019 Holiday Bowl, Niemann has continued to be a force in 2020. As the starting middle linebacker in the first game of the season and as the starting weakside linebacker in the other six games, he has made 69 tackles, which is second most in the Big Ten.

At Penn State in Week 5, Niemann made 17 tackles, which was the most for a Hawkeye in a game since linebacker Anthony Hitchens had 19 tackles against Iowa State in 2012.

He has had a career season right in front of his father Jay Niemann, who’s been the assistant defensive line coach and defensive recruiting coordinator for Iowa since 2019. Before that he was the defensive coordinator from 2016-18 at Rutgers and held the same position at Northern Illinois from 2011-15.

“It’s been awesome for me as a father to have the opportunity to be the coach on the team that your son’s playing on,” Jay Niemann said before the start of the season. “And just having the daily interaction is something that I missed out on for a number of years before I got to Iowa.”

Jay Niemann said it’s been fun to see his son progress through games and practices, which he wouldn’t have the chance to do if he coached at another university.

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Head coach Kirk Ferentz has been impressed with Niemann’s leadership in 2020. The Sycamore, Illinois, native has been a captain the entire season for the Hawkeyes.

He said the brothers have a commonality of being tremendous people and recalled what it was like recruiting Ben Niemann, Nick’s older brother, who played as a linebacker at Iowa from 2014-17 and is now on the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I think that goes right back to mom and dad,” Ferentz said. “They did a great job raising those kids. I remember it like it was yesterday calling Jay, talking about Ben, we were getting ready to offer Ben. I felt like a kidnapper because he was going to go to Northern where Jay was coaching at that time. I remember exactly where I was, when it was, I remember that conversation vividly. It’s all worked out. Funny how that was not the master plan but a pretty neat deal.”

This won’t be the first Niemann honored on senior day at Iowa, with Ben being honored before.

But senior day in 2020, like many events in the year, won’t be held as usual because there will be no fans in the stands.

With Jay and Nick Niemann tested every day for COVID-19, there might be some normalcy for Nick Niemann. He might have the opportunity to hug his father on the field for the Senior Day ceremony.

“That would make sense,” Nick Niemann said. “But with all the rules going on I don’t know what kind of stuff is going to be going on, but hopefully. That would be nice.”