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Q&A: Catching up with Matt Roth

BY CHARLIE GREEN | AUGUST 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Former Iowa standout defensive end Matt Roth lives in his native Illinois with his wife and two young children. Roth played seven years in the NFL after playing at Iowa from 2001-04, where he was named All-Big Ten twice and second team All-American in 2004. In his time at Iowa, the program enjoyed one of the best defenses in its history.

The Daily Iowan: Are you excited about the upcoming season?

Roth: Oh yeah. Just put in a brand-new patio. Looking forward to putting it to use and watching plenty of games.

DI: You played on arguably the best defense in school history; who was the best defensive player you played with?

Roth: That’s a tough one. Bob Sanders took guys out left and right, just had a nasty attitude. He brought a whole new dimension to our defense.

DI: What about Chad Greenway?

Roth: Greenway was a freak athlete. I remember when I was walking through the gym freshman year, he was playing basketball. I saw him during a game run up and dunk it from near the free-throw line. I mean, the guy’s 6-3, 240; the guy could just do things that you couldn’t dream of.

DI: Anyone else?

Roth: Abdul Hodge was one of my best friends at Iowa; he came in already bench-pressing like 400-something pounds. [Jonathan] Babineaux was a great athlete playing nose guard, just so many good players — a lot of great guys on offense, too.

DI: What was the most memorable or defining game you played in?

Roth: When I was a sophomore, we were coming off a loss against Iowa State, playing Miami (Ohio) and beat them pretty good. The week after that we came out and beat the snot out of Michigan. I think after that we all just felt like we could beat anybody.

DI: What was the Iowa State game like?

Roth: That one was tough. Because everyone always talked it up, but growing up in Illinois, I viewed teams like Michigan and Ohio State as rivals, teams that we would need to beat to win a Big Ten championship. It wasn’t until my sophomore year, when I look back on that game and think, “Man, if we would have won that game, we would have gone to the national championship.”

DI: And you guys were the better team?

Roth: On paper, we were probably 10 times better — they just play you so tough. I’d have to say that’s the game that sticks out most. If it wasn’t for them we would have won the conference outright and end up playing in the national championship — and probably would have won it.

DI: You think you would have won it all?

Roth: I mean we had five of the best players in the country that year. Guys like Brian Banks, Dallas Clark, Robert Gallery, Bob Sanders, and Eric Steinbach — you could make the argument that all those guys were the best at their position that year. I think we had five guys who won accolades for their position that year and a couple who did the following year.

DI: Lots of NFL names there — it almost sounds like a college fantasy team.

Roth: Yeah I don’t think people realize that when they look back on it. And that doesn’t even account for me, Greenway, Abdul, [Sean] Considine, Babinuex — we were playing some key roles spotting guys off the bench.

DI:Do you have a favorite memory with your teammates?

Roth: Just hanging out with the group. We went downtown, we rolled 30-40 deep. We always had each other’s backs. And hanging out at the cafeteria after practices or in the dorms. We had a really good group of guys who really gelled well, especially on defense. We had guys from Florida, Texas, I was from Illinois, all different backgrounds and demographics. We never got sick of each other.

DI: Where was the place to be when you guys were downtown?

Roth: Sports Column was a big one. Back in the day, the Union was awesome; they used to pack that place pretty tight.

DI: What was it like seeing those guys on other teams in the NFL?

Roth: It was weird, seeing those guys in different colors after rocking black and gold for four or five years. It was good to see everyone getting paid doing what they love though.

DI: Was it bittersweet?

Roth: You know, the great part about it was watching this guys in film and telling my teammates they played for Iowa. I would hear a lot of, “Oh, he went to Iowa? Man, you guys had a lot of good players.”

It kind of put Iowa on the map in a lot of ways, and that was cool.

DI: What does that say about your coaches at Iowa, particularly Kirk Ferentz?

Roth: They did a great job recruiting and were great coaches. The biggest compliment was talking to pro teams, or players from other Big Ten schools, and they all wanted to know what we were doing as far as lifting. They couldn’t believe how strong, fast, and physical we were.


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