Iowa's Weisman earns 'Juggernaut' nickname in win


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James Vandenberg called him “a genetic freak.”

Keenan Davis called him “a tank.”

C.J. Fiedorowicz called him “a solid brick of muscle.”

His teammates have called him the Juggernaut for a while. After Mark Weisman rushed for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15, the rest of Hawkeye nation understands why.

The Iowa offense suffered two significant injuries against the Panthers when running backs Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon both left the game in the second quarter. That left Iowa without any healthy tailbacks. But the Hawkeyes didn’t panic.

They would have, Fiedorowicz said, but they knew that Weisman was the next man in. The fullback seamlessly switched from blocker to featured runner.

“Weisman, man, that guy,” Davis said. “We knew it was going to come; we saw it. He had a great, great camp, and everybody knew that he was going to come in and produce, and he did today … He’s going to do everything right.”

Weisman pounded in all three of the Hawkeyes’ touchdowns from 2 yards or less. The fullback-turned-running back racked up yards after contact, choosing to run through the Panther defense instead of around them.

“It’s a fullback style, and I play fullback — I’m now a running back, but that’s just my style right now,” Weisman said. “I like contact and I like playing football … physical football in the Big Ten.”

Weisman, however, seemed more proud of the black eye he got during the game than the touchdowns he scored. He credited those to the offensive line’s blocking.

“One [touchdown] was from fullback — they opened up a wide hole for me, and I just got in there. And the other two were from running back,” Weisman said. “One of them I didn’t even get touched, the blocking there was unbelievable. You could have driven a truck through the hole there.”

But Weisman was physical, too. The Hawkeye nabbed a 21-yard pass from Vandenberg and flattened a defender as he pushed forward, ball under his arm, to the Northern Iowa 4-yard line. The “Juggernaut” made one of the biggest hits of the contest while he was carrying the ball.

The sophomore has eagerly awaited his chance to get in the game, to be the next man in. He’s worked diligently in the weight room — competing daily with linebacker James Morris — and put in constant effort just to make sure he’d be prepared when his name finally got called.

“Coach always talks about the next man in, so he was the next man in and he did a tremendous job,” offensive lineman Austin Blythe said. “We did our job up front, but he just broke tackle after tackle … He just puts his head down and runs the ball.”

Blythe said Weisman’s performance against UNI was a testament to how hard the fullback works during the offseason, off the field, and in practice. Weisman, even before receiving significant playing time, continually set an example for the rest of his teammates and set the bar for work ethic.

“He’s a young guy that we’ve had a lot of confidence in. You learn a lot from how you see guys go through their day-to-day work,” Vandenberg said. “He’s one of those guys who puts his nose down every day and just grinds it out no matter what, running, conditioning, lifting. He’s a great guy to be around and to work with.”

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