Iowa F Ahmad Wagner says it’s ‘flattering’ for coaches to discuss his football prowess
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— Brandon Jacoba (@BrandonJacoba) January 19, 2018
ANSWER: Iowa junior basketball player Ahmad Wagner usually scoffs or laughs off questions when it comes to football. But the 6-foot-7 forward was more introspective with regard to his football past and didn’t completely rule out a future return to the gridiron.
Monday, Wagner answered the typical questions about Iowa basketball’s defensive struggles. Afterward, he took in a few more questions about football.
“Getting that itch to play football?” Wagner responded to a question. “I’m just focusing on this year, this basketball season. I haven’t really thought about that. I’m just focused on what I can do for the Iowa basketball team.”
Wagner, who weighs 235 pounds, was committed to play basketball at Iowa when former Wayne (Ohio) High School teammate and current Wisconsin basketball player D’Mitrik Trice pushed for him to join the football team his senior year in high school. Trice, whose older brother Travis played basketball at Michigan State, was the team’s quarterback. Wagner previously never had played football.
“I wasn’t going to play,” Wagner said. “I had no reason to. I was already committed to Iowa and got my basketball scholarship. So I had no reason to play, but [Trice] just kind of talked me into it. ‘Hey man, why not go out for it?’ He’s like, ‘I’m the quarterback. You can count on getting the ball. So don’t worry about that.’ I’m like, ‘Why not? Have fun, no pressure, because I didn’t think I’d be good.’ He’s like no pressure, along with the coaches. ‘Go out and have fun.’ ”
Well, Wagner found out he was more than good. He caught 40 passes for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season and was named first-team all-state. In the 2014 Ohio Division I title game, Wagner caught an 11-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score. Wagner finished the game with 5 catches for 55 yards and also had 109 return yards in a 31-21 loss to Lakewood St. Edward.
Football programs started coming after Wagner that year. Kentucky offered him a scholarship. Ohio State also was interested.
“They were really respectful when they were recruiting me, I guess,” Wagner said of Ohio State. “They called to me and they just kind of told me, like, ‘We know you’re committed to Iowa, we have full respect for them, we’re not going to tell you to de-commit and come here.’ They were just saying if football was the route that you want to take, that we’re interested and that if you want to take that route, we’re here. But I was committed to Iowa.”
Wagner’s high school football teammates were pushing for him to consider college football.
“They were like, ‘There’s some really big schools after you; you should really consider it,’ ” Wagner said. “But I already fell in love with everything here, so there’s no need to do that.”
In his three seasons for Iowa’s basketball team, Wagner has 24 starts in 87 games. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds a game his sophomore season with 18 starts. This year, he’s averaging just 1.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 9.9 minutes a game.
Wagner has heard the chirps from people wanting him to shift to the football field. Former Iowa football center James Daniels vouched for his friend as a football player, telling Land of 10, “Ahmad should play football.” Wagner also has had interactions on Twitter with Iowa football recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell.
What about your football career? Time is ticking…⏰👀 https://t.co/Xy93sHRw9L
— Kelvin Bell 🦍 (@CoachK_Bell) July 18, 2017
“He seems like a great guy,” Wagner said. “Obviously, he’s a great recruiter. I can obviously see that. That’s pretty flattering to get that kind of recognition from college football coaches. It’s all kind of strange to me because I still didn’t think I was that good. It’s really flattering, and it’s a blessing that people saw that kind of potential in me.”
Wagner anchored his school’s 4×100 relay squad to a fourth-place finish his senior year. If he opted to switch to football, he’d prefer to stay at wide receiver.
“It’s the only thing I do know how to do,” Wagner said. “So if I was playing football, I’d be a wide receiver, yeah.”
Read more Question of the Day answers about the Iowa Hawkeyes here.