Connor Colby was blocking high school defensive linemen at this time last year.
Now he’s starting for a college team ranked No. 5 in the national polls.
Yeah, it’s a different world for Colby, who made his first start for Iowa in last Saturday’s game against Colorado State.
It is, Colby said on Tuesday, “a work in progress.”
“It was definitely a big adjustment,” said Colby, who started at right guard last week. “I’m still not all of the way there, not even close.”
Colby, who played at Cedar Rapids Kennedy and was a first-team all-state selection as a junior and senior, joined the Hawkeyes early for spring practice, and worked himself on to the two-deep heading into fall camp.
“It was a big step forward in the spring, and I’ve just got to keep going on that,” Colby said.
“Obviously being a true freshman and coming in here and starting for us, it’s pretty impressive what he can do,” center Tyler Linderbaum said. “Obviously he hasn’t had the game experience as others, but he plays his heart out.”
“He's definitely in the mix, mainly because when he was starting in the spring, he didn't look like he was overwhelmed,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Not because he looked like he knew what he was doing 100 percent and still doesn't, but he looked like he belongs in the pack, if you will, and he's done a lot of good things.”
The size of the players he is facing is something Colby has learned about.
“I know I can’t overpower people now,” he said.
Colby has been eased into his role with Iowa playing a rotation of players on the offensive line. Getting game work, while also getting a chance to watch, has helped in his education.
“I would say it’s pretty helpful. It’s helpful for me to come off and sort things out,” Colby said. “I’ve just been kind of living in the moment, focusing on now.”
Iowa’s offensive line is young, but there are enough veterans to help Colby. Linderbaum, a preseason All-American, has provided plenty of advice. And Colby’s roommate on game weekends is senior guard Kyler Schott.
“Me and Shooter talk a lot. He helps me out,” Colby said. “If I don’t understand what’s going on, I can go to him and get a straight answer. Work around it and shoot me straight.”
Colby is No. 2 on the depth chart at right tackle for Saturday’s game. But he has proven to be a key piece in Iowa’s offensive line, even with his inexperience.
Ferentz said on Tuesday he would like a more consistent line group as the season progresses. Colby, he said, is “in the mix.”
“He's also struggled some out there, which is totally predictable in practice, and also on the game field,” Ferentz said. “He had a couple plays the other day that I thought he was capable of making, but it just happened a little faster than maybe he thought. That's part of inexperience and youth. We'll just kind of see how it all plays out.”