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Iowa lands athletic offensive guard in Blythe

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | FEBRUARY 02, 2011 7:10 AM

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Football may not be Austin Blythe’s best sport, but that’s what he’s coming to Iowa City to play. The 6-3, 280-pound offensive guard is expected to sign with the Hawkeyes today.

It’s a safe bet that he will have other things on his mind. A two-time defending state champion at 285 pounds, the Williamsburg native is in the middle of wrestling season. He claimed a conference title on Jan. 29.

Blythe has been playing football since seventh grade. But wrestling — which he picked up when he was 6 — was his “first real passion.”

Choosing the gridiron over the mat was difficult, he said.

“I always thought I’d be wrestling in college somewhere,” he said. “I felt like I was light years ahead. The wrestling — I was probably more fluid in early on. As I got older and more involved in football, I developed the skills. I’ve been able to be pretty successful at both, which is a blessing.”

Don’t confuse Blythe’s passion for wrestling as uninterest in football, though. The lifelong Hawkeye fan has regularly attended football games as well as wrestling meets in Iowa City for as long as he can remember.

Blythe said he spoke with Hawkeye offensive-line coach Reese Morgan on Jan. 28, and the Iowa coach asked him if he had any more questions.

“I said, ‘No, I’m ready for the next thing in life,’ ” Blythe said. “I’m going to get over there and put everything I have into being the best football player I can be.”

His wrestling background certainly won’t hurt his development as a football player. Blythe cited certain traits — the use of leverage, a strong command of balance — as being paramount in both sports. His high-school head football coach, Curt Ritchie, lauded Blythe’s athleticism.

“I think we would always be kind of surprised when we would do a short change-of-direction drill,” Ritchie said. “Just how fast he was, his agility — that definitely surprised us a little bit.”

When Williamsburg ran its players through speed and agility challenges, Ritchie said, Blythe didn’t compete against his fellow linemen. He was too quick.

“We found ourselves putting him with our tight ends and our fullbacks,” he said. “Then we would finally put him with the skill positions [QB, RB, WR], which is pretty uncommon for us.

“We’ll be in the gym, and he’ll jump up and dunk a dodge ball or a volleyball. He has some pretty good explosion.”

Hawkeyereport.com’s Tom Kakert said he believes Blythe follows a recipe similar to that of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz’s most successful offensive guards. More specifically, he brought up current Cleveland Brown and ex-Hawkeye Eric Steinbach.

“[The Hawkeyes are] really at their best when they have some pretty good athletes at guard,” Kakert said.

Sounds like Blythe.

“He can do things that a guy at 6-3, 280 normally just can’t do,” Kakert said. “He’s a really high-level athlete who I think can surprise people.”


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