MNF: 49ers-Vikings game highlights George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson from Iowa - Sports Talk Florida - N
Iowa's tight end program has produced some of the most productive tight ends in the NFL, including George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson.
The San Francisco 49ers starting offense was introducing themselves during a recent nationally televised game when George Kittle, the team's tight end, took his turn. With his long blond hair flowing over his shoulder pads, Kittle confidently proclaimed, "George Kittle, Tight End University." This clever introduction left no doubt about where he learned his craft: the University of Iowa.
Iowa has a reputation for producing top-notch NFL tight ends, and Kittle is a proud product of their program. The Hawkeyes have built their scheme around this underappreciated position, combining the flash and grit of the game like no other team. Kittle credits Iowa for instilling in him the value of hard work and the importance of being a well-rounded player.
"When I first arrived on campus, they made it clear that if I didn't learn how to run block, I wouldn't see the field. So I made it my passion," Kittle explained. "Iowa teaches you to work harder than everyone else, no matter what."
Kittle's time at Iowa overlapped with T.J. Hockenson, who was a redshirt in the tight end room. Hockenson, now playing for the Minnesota Vikings, was drafted eighth overall in 2019 after impressing scouts with his skills. Both Kittle and Hockenson will be featured receivers for their respective teams when they face off on Monday night, showcasing the talent that Iowa has produced.
Iowa is known for its tight end alumni, with five players from the university making NFL opening weekend rosters this year. Alongside Kittle and Hockenson, players like Noah Fant and Sam LaPorta have contributed to the impressive collective stats of former Hawkeyes. With a total of 94 catches for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns this season, Iowa has the most productive tight ends in the league from a single school. This dominance extends over the past five years, surpassing other renowned tight end factories like Miami, Notre Dame, and Stanford.
Brian Ferentz, the current offensive coordinator at Iowa, has a strong background in coaching tight ends. Having coached the position during his time with the New England Patriots, Ferentz understands the importance of developing players. Hockenson, who grew up idolizing former Iowa tight end Dallas Clark, knew that Iowa was the place for him to grow as a player.
"They've been a winning program for a long time, and that's an easy thing to buy into," Hockenson said. "Playing there definitely helped me through the ebbs and flows of an NFL system."
During the offseason, Kittle and Hockenson train together at Kittle's 75-acre property outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have created a dedicated workout facility in a remodeled barn and even have a football field in the yard. The duo also organizes an annual summer summit called "Tight End University," where they bring together NFL tight ends to improve their skills and have fun.
Kittle has had a significant impact on the recognition of tight ends in the NFL. During a game in 2018, he wore a microphone and celebrated a touchdown catch by his teammate Garrett Celek, proclaiming it "National Tight Ends Day." This caught the attention of social media users and the league, leading to the establishment of an official holiday on the fourth Sunday of October.
The upcoming game between the 49ers and the Vikings is a perfect showcase for Kittle and Hockenson to display their skills. While the game falls a day after National Tight Ends Day, it will provide a prime-time stage for these talented players to demonstrate how far they've come.
"I have a lot of respect for T.J. and his game," Kittle said, jokingly adding that he might sell Hockenson's trade secrets to the 49ers defensive backs. "If I had him on my fantasy team, I'd probably start him this week. But I'm giving our guys tips to try to slow him down so I can have a better National Tight Ends Day."
Overall, the University of Iowa's tight end program has established itself as a powerhouse in producing NFL talent. With their emphasis on hard work, versatility, and skill development, it's no wonder that Iowa's tight ends are making a significant impact in the league. As Kittle and Hockenson take the field on Monday night, they will undoubtedly make their alma mater proud.