Iowa football quarterback Spencer Petras keeping options open after shoulder surgery

Petras tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in Week 13. He’s now mentoring Music City Bowl starter Joe Labas, who has never thrown a college pass.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras and wide receiver Nico Ragaini watch action during a 2022 Transperfect Music City Bowl Iowa football practice at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Quarterback Spencer Petras helped Iowa football beat Kentucky in a sing-off at Wildhorse Saloon Wednesday night. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound right-hander collaborated with his teammates to write and sing an original song at a Music City Bowl welcome event on Broadway Street.

“It’s like I’ve been training for this for a while,” Petras said. “You know, you gotta prepare to be the best, and we did that today. So, good win.

“I love to play the guitar,” Petras added. “Especially if I’ve had a couple beers, you know, it’s always fun. We really didn’t prepare much for this. You get like 15 or 16 minutes to write a song.”

Petras isn’t going to play in the Hawkeyes’ postseason game because he tore his right rotator cuff and labrum during Iowa’s 24-17 loss to Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 25.

“I went into the injury tent, they moved it around,” Petras said of the moment he got hurt. “I was in pain, but not bad. Then I was like, ‘Alright, let me try and throw a ball.’ In doing that, my shoulder slipped out. Because the labrum, I think, is what keeps it all together. It wasn’t functioning correctly.”

Petras’ injury, coupled with backup Alex Padilla’s decision to enter the transfer portal, has left the Hawkeyes with two healthy quarterbacks this postseason. Redshirt freshman Joe Labas and true freshman Carson May — both of whom have never thrown a collegiate pass — will serve as the Hawkeyes’ starter and backup, respectively.

Iowa’s inexperience at quarterback has given Petras a way to contribute to the Hawkeyes’ bowl prep beyond sing-offs and team bonding events.

“Any question [Labas] has, I answer it,” Petras said. “I think the key for me is to kind of shut up. I would love to tell him about every single play. But we have coaches on staff, and that’s their job. You know, I never want to overstep in that way and overload a guy like Joe.”

The week of postseason practice Petras has gone through with the Hawkeyes in Tennessee could prove useful to him as he tries to further his football career. The senior said he’d like to coach when his playing career is over.

“As of right now, when I’m done playing, I want to coach,” Petras said. “So, the goal is to take steps in that direction while I’m rehabbing. Once I’m rehabbed, feel good, make a decision from there.”

Petras added that he is still weighing his options to continue being involved in football. The Californian said he hopes to be on Iowa’s spring roster to leave all doors open — even if he never plays another down with the Hawkeyes.

Petras noted he likely won’t be able to throw seriously for six months. His recovery timetable beyond that is unclear.

Petras could continue his collegiate career because he was among the 2020-21 athletes awarded an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA because of COVID-19. If he were to return to Iowa, he would likely back up Cade McNamara — a transfer quarterback from Michigan.

Petras said he’s begun to have conversations with Kirk and Brian Ferentz — Iowa’s head coach and offensive coordinator —  about the next steps he should take in his career. Much of his decision-making will be dictated by how his shoulder heals in the next few months. 

“We’ll see how Joe and the rest of the guys do,” Petras said. “Cade’s likely going to be our quarterback next year. I’m not unaware to that. And I think, had this injury not happened at the time it did, I’d probably be trying to train for the NFL. Obviously, a minimum six months out, it’s kind of a tough deal there. It just gets tough.”

Petras also noted that there’s a small chance his arm will never fully recover from the injury. He said his shoulder might also end up being strong enough to throw in Iowa’s pro day in 2024.

“I’m kinda working through, right now, taking the next steps in my career after football, but also ensuring I don’t have any regrets in terms of finishing my playing career,” Petras said. “I’m not exactly sure what that’ll look like quite yet. I know I’ll be at Iowa in the spring, rehabbing. I’ll help Cade, help whoever, teach what I know about our system and things like that. In terms of next steps after that, it’s really hard to say.”