TAMPA, Fla. — Tight end George Kittle hails from a large extended family where one first cousin (Jess Settles) was named the Big Ten’s basketball freshman of the year in 1994 and another (Henry Krieger Coble) caught a pass for the Denver Broncos on Christmas night.
Settles called Kittle “the life of the party,” something of which his Iowa teammates agree. Quarterback C.J. Beathard said Kittle is “a good crazy. He’s fun to be around.” No one would dispute that Kittle boils over with charisma, and matching his personality is his play on the football field. In four seasons, Kittle has caught 47 passes for 709 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was poised to have a much bigger impact his senior season but suffered a foot injury at Purdue that hobbled him for the rest of the year.
Perhaps Kittle’s best quality on the football field is his blocking ability. Pro Football Focus wrote this summer that Kittle was the best tight end in college football. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Kittle has the dimensions to play the position at the next level. But few can match all of his qualities.
As Kittle prepared for his final game, Landof10.com caught up with Kittle for a question-and-answer session. Among the topics include off-the-field activities and his close relationship with his father, Bruce Kittle. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing football?
A: I’d love to be a GA (graduate assistant) at some point in college football. Either that or it’s always been my dream to live out in Colorado. I go there every year with my dad and climb a 14,000-foot mountain. So somewhere out in the mountains. Colorado has always been my favorite place.
Q: Speaking of Colorado, your cousin, Henry Krieger Coble, catches a pass for the Broncos the other day against the Chiefs. How did you know he was going to play and did you watch the game?
A: He called me as soon as he heard it. Me and Henry stay in touch and talk about once a week just about what’s going on. Just the fact that he got pulled up (from the practice squad), I haven’t been that excited in a while, since probably the Nebraska game. Just the fact that he got a shot and got to play a little bit and got a catch, I’m just glad. We had a team movie, so I only got back the last five minutes and I got to see it. I was just absolutely thrilled for him and his family who were there.
Q: On your last play at Kinnick, you took Nebraska’s defensive end and drove him about 15 yards down to his back. Is there a better ending for your home career than to do that to your opponent on your last play?
A: I can’t name one. I said at the beginning of the season that I like to pancake guys. Being able to do that in the end zone and let LeShun (Daniels) — I’m pretty sure LeShun waltzed in, he didn’t really run. He was pretty slow actually, the slowest I’ve seen him. It was incredible, just the fact that all of our seniors played so well in our last game. Being able to beat a ranked opponent, it’s a trophy game, you couldn’t ask for much more.
Q: What’s your football mood music? What do you listen to before the game?
A: Oh, wow. It’s kind of random depending on what I’m feeling. Usually I listen to summer hits of the ‘90s a lot or, if you’ve ever been on Pandora, you know the movie the “Guardians of the Galaxy?” They have a playlist on Pandora. That’s about all I listen to. I like mellow music. If I get too amped up, I play the game before. I don’t want to lose my energy. Sometimes I’ll listen to some “Rise Against,” which my dad listens to. I try to keep it more mellow so I don’t burn my energy.
Q: What’s your go-to sport or recreational activity if you’re out for the night?
A: In the summer, we play a lot of Frisbee golf, me and (Cole) Croston. He’s actually really good at it. And Steve Ferentz, us three. (Peter) Pekar plays a couple of times. We usually go out a lot in the summer or golf. We usually get groups of 4-to-10 guys golfing. Or, if it gets colder, I like to play pool. Otherwise I’m on my couch. Oh, bowling. What’s funny is we just picked that up because during bowl prep we have so much free time. I probably went bowling five times and I didn’t bowl under a 120 once. Pekar usually bowls a 130, 140. The spotlight just kind of scared us (while losing a bowling competition to Florida). I haven’t done that before in my life. But it was fun.
Q: Have you ever had one of those celebrity moments, like at the mall or downtown, and somebody says, ‘Hey, there’s George Kittle?’
A: I got into a wedding photo somehow. It was probably July. I was walking down and there were wedding photos being taken downtown sometime during the day and I was just getting food. Someone screamed at me, ‘Hey Kittle, come take a photo with us for our wedding. So I was in between a bunch of bridesmaids. I enjoyed it. I had no idea who any of them were, but it was fun.
Q: Stone Cold Steve Austin. Is that your (WWE) guy?
A: Steve Manders, our fullback, got me into WWE. You should ask C.J. (Beathard) about it. He’ll talk a lot of crap on it. It’s really funny. I’ve been watching WWE a lot, since probably the spring. I do love The Rock. I love Stone Cold, Seth Rollins is from Davenport, Iowa, so I’m a big fan of him. There’s actually a WWE event in Tampa at 7:30 after the game and I’ll be at that, too. There’s a former Iowa football player (Ettore Ewen) on a WWE roster, Big E. I’m looking forward to that.
Beathard’s reply: I don’t do WWE. That’s not me. That’s (Kittle) and Steve Manders. I can’t stand WWE. I just don’t watch it. I’m not into it like they are.
Q: You talked about mountain climbing. Is that your favorite summer activity?
A: Really, it’s a week out of the year I get to spend with just my dad. I have a really good relationship with him. He’s really my best friend. So just being able to spend a week (with him), I could do anything. I could go to Cedar Rapids and go to a hotel with him, I don’t care. Just the fact we’re able to climb a mountain, and he just loves the outdoors. That’s what make it so special for us.
Q: You were the last guy to get a scholarship in 2012. What has playing at Iowa meant to you?
A: A lot of it is that my dad played here. He’s very prideful that I got to follow in his footsteps. Just being able to be a Hawk for five years. Coach Ferentz said if you can play football at Iowa for five years, you can do anything in your life. What’s funny is, I’ve heard that from countless players who have come back and talked to us as captains. Just the fact that this is hard, what we do. You’ll never do anything harder in your life, except for maybe military stuff, which I totally agree with. Just the fact that we’re a Hawkeyes family forever. That’s something that’s really stood out to me. My dad is still in contact with multiple ex-Iowa Hawkeyes guys every weekend. This is much more big picture than football.
Q: For your last meal on Earth, what would you eat and what would you drink?
A: Cane’s Chicken. Raisin’ Canes. It’s a Southern place. Cane’s chicken sauce. That and some sweet tea. Cane’s melt is all I’d eat. Two slices of Texas toast. I’m set, man.