Ah, it's officially that wonderful time of year again, the time of year where Iowa fills its few remaining scholarships with MAC commits and FCS unknowns. It was these last few days before Signing Day where Iowa landed Jordan Canzeri out of upstate New York, Greg Castillo out of Philadelphia, and Tanner Miller out of wherever it is that Tanner Miller came from. Eight months from now, one of these guys will stand out to coaches and either pop up in the Week 1 two-deep or get name dropped in every press conference for two years.
And so it is that Akrum Wadley, a heretofore unknown recruit who played for Newark, New Jersey's Weequahic High School, enters the Iowa football program. Wadley was left unscouted by the major services despite rushing for more than 1500 yards and 29 touchdowns and leading his team to a runner-up finish in the New Jersey State Championships. He also ran back punts for Weequahic, scoring four touchdowns on punt returns in his senior season, and played safety on defense. In the New Jersey State Championship Game, he ran a punt back 83 yards for a touchdown and scored a second time on a 34-yard run. Wadley's coach sang his praises:
"He definitely willed us to the championship," Weequahic coach Brian Logan said. "We thought we could maybe play .500 ball, but he definitely put us over the top. Kids like that come along once in a long time."
All of that is kind of amazing, given that Wadley was not a student at Weequahic. He attended University High, which did not have a football program, so the 5'10, 175 pound Wadley traveled to Weequahic every day -- it was only a mile away, but still -- to play for a team with people with whom he did not attend any classes and lead them to a state championship game appearance. At the end of the season, he returned to University High, where he led his basketball team to a state runner-up finish as a junior. That's dedication, homes.
Temple eventually extended an offer to Wadley, which he accepted in mid-January. Iowa came in after that verbal commitment, got Wadley to Iowa City last week, and he apparently enjoyed it:
"It reminds me of where I grew up in South Jersey in Willingboro," Wadley said. "The campus is incredible. They have a nice indoor facility and I watched clips of the fans on YouTube and they are really into it. It's the Big Ten and I want to compete at the highest level."
The bad thing: he's 5'10 and 175 pounds, making him a relatively odd choice for Iowa's power-running tendencies. Perhaps Iowa sees him as a change-of-pace back, or a safety and punt returner, or another of the cadre of undersized, quick receiver-types that Greg Davis has been collecting. Perhaps Iowa sees him as a two-sport athlete and proven winner with a skill set they can use somewhere, and the positioning will be sorted out once he arrives.
Wadley is intriguing as a completely unheralded prospect, mainly because there are so many reasons why he might have been overlooked. He played for a school that had no history of success (they had won a district championship in 2006, and it was such an achievement that it made the school's Wikipedia page) in a city that doesn't have a football history, and it wasn't even his school. Even if Weequahic's head coach was going to promote him, he was not even on site to meet with coaches. His size is a problem for many programs, and while his production was superb, it was against somewhat questionable competition. In the world of AT&T commercials, Bob Stoops would have seen the play on the video above and committed a secondary recruiting violation just to introduce himself. In the real world, guys like this fall through the cracks. And Kirk Ferentz loves those guys.