When you think tight end in college football, the first school that should come to mind is Iowa.
In 2018, ex-Hawkeye George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
In the same year, Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football before being selected as the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Noah Fant teamed with Hockenson the past two seasons to form the nation’s most feared tight end duo. Fant was selected 20th overall by the Denver Broncos, and they became the first teammates in college football history to be selected at tight end in the first round in the same year.
In tight-end prospect Thomas Fidone, who will be a junior at Lewis Central this year, the Hawkeyes apparently see at least some of that same potential. When Fidone attended Iowa’s football camp last month, he said their comments got his attention.
“They told me that I reminded them so much of T.J. Hockenson, with the length and speed and strength,’’ he said. “Just my size, and the way my body is. Along with Noah Fant. That’s what they said.’’
Following his participation in Iowa’s recruiting tailgater on Sunday, the Hawkeyes extended Fidone a scholarship offer, his first from an FBS school.
“It was crazy,’’ he said. “It was a really surreal moment and experience. It’s still not too real, to be honest with you. It’s just kind of sinking in.’’
Fidone was listed last season at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, but says he’s now up to 6-5 and 215. He played wide receiver, and caught 23 passes for 311 yards and three scores.
Fidone said he expects to remain at wide receiver for at least one more year. He also plays cornerback and safety on defense.
The Lewis Central standout said he attended a camp at Minnesota this summer and is receiving interest. Northwestern, Iowa State and Kansas State are among other schools who are monitoring his progress, he said.
Fidone said he had a good experience on Sunday, but he left initially without an offer. While he was eating with his family in Iowa City, Lewis Central teammate Logan Jones called. Jones will be a senior at L.C. and has committed to Iowa. He instructed Fidone to call Iowa assistant LeVar Woods. Woods then joined the family for dinner and brought them back to the football facility, where coach Kirk Ferentz made the offer.
Clearly, the Iowa coaches like Fidone’s frame and ball skills. He’s already bigger than Kittle and Hockenson were when they entered college, and he’s about the same weight as Fant.
Fidone said he’ll likely be able to better utilize his size on the outside this fall. He has high hopes for himself and the Titans this season.
“I just want to make some big plays,’’ he said. “Have about 40, 50 receptions, hopefully, and 800, 900 yards receiving.”