In the end, patience won out.
There was the 0-5 start his sophomore year, a rude introduction to his first varsity stint. There was the devastating injury his junior year, which sent colleges scurrying during one of recruiting’s most important stretches. What began as a promising season with ample Division I interest ended with him simply trying to feel his leg again.
Schools eventually returned — but slowly. He owned just two FBS offers with a week to go until National Signing Day.
But Nate Wieland never wavered. It started with his bounce-back senior campaign as City High’s starting quarterback, only continuing as higher-end recruiting steam began to resurface in the final stages. The coveted offer finally arrived. Even this late, he couldn’t pass it up.
After Sunday’s decommitment from Northern Illinois, Wieland announced his flip to Iowa Monday afternoon via Twitter, capping off a frenzied stretch that saw his once-steady recruitment add a significant wrinkle over the last four days. Iowa offered Wieland Thursday, hosted him on an official visit the same weekend and officially landed the two-star athlete shortly after.
“I thought that Nate was (a potential Power 5 recruit) for quite some time, I really did,” veteran Little Hawks coach Dan Sabers said. “I just really felt that — and I told Nate a couple times — ‘I’m just a little surprised. I think people are missing you.’”
Very excited to announce that I am committing to the University of Iowa to further my football and academic career… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
Nate Wieland (@NateWieland) January 30, 2017
Although Wieland committed to Northern Illinois in June as a dual-threat quarterback, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder will likely head to Iowa as a linebacker or potential safety. He was offense-only this season through City’s first three games, but did see some defensive action over the final eight contests. (7.5 tackles, two TFLs). Wieland’s offensive value, though, often trumped playing both ways.
But his frame and athleticism gives the Hawkeyes options as they consider his collegiate position.
“It was more safety initially, and I think as he’s kind of grown. He’s got the frame to be a linebacker,” said Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest football recruiting manager. “I think that’s become more of the position, so I think at this point, I see him more of a linebacker at the next level.
“It is a little bit of a tougher projection (because the defensive film is lacking), but … Iowa has had some success with moving guys to different positions.”
Although Wieland secured his first two FBS offers — Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan — last spring, any significant Power 5 interest would only come with a quality, injury-free senior season. A shoulder problem and severe nerve damage in his right leg sliced his junior year down to a measly five quarters, leaving some schools hesitant about Wieland’s overall health.
“I would get letters from Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota every day,” he said in September, “and then once I got injured, I noticed the next month, didn’t get a single one. Then next month, didn’t get a single letter from any of them.
“So I just used that as motivation this whole offseason.”
Wieland’s passing production didn’t appear instantly, but his dual-threat capabilities kept the Little Hawks rolling until the air attack found its groove. Despite not throwing a touchdown pass over City’s first four games, Wieland scampered for 342 yards and five ground scores in propelling the Little Hawks to a 3-1 start.
Then, the arm came around.
In one of Class 4A’s most dominant passing performances this year, Wieland torched Clinton for 353 yards through the air and two touchdowns en route to a 49-28 Week 5 win. The yardage output was the season’s fourth-best in 4A and marked the first time a City quarterback eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark since 2007.
Wieland ultimately rolled up 2,412 total yards — 1,671 passing, 741 rushing — and 20 combined touchdowns, leading the Little Hawks to an 8-3 record with a 4A quarterfinal appearance.
“He’s had the athletic ability throughout,” Sabers said, “and he definitely loves football. He’s dedicated to football and has proven his love for the game. If you go to college (to play football), you obviously better have some skills and better love the game. He’s got those two things, and his character’s good — so that’s in line too.
“All indicators are there that he could do very well.”
With Monday’s flip, Wieland becomes the first Little Hawk on scholarship at Iowa since class of 2010’s A.J. Derby, another City quarterback who ultimately switched to defense once in the Hawkeye program. Derby transferred after the 2011 season, making the class of 2008’s James Ferentz the scholarship Little Hawk who most recently saw the field for Iowa (he started all 12 games at center as a redshirt senior in 2012).
Having coached them all, Sabers admitted some added pressure and attention can come when Little Hawks venture just down the road to Kinnick. But City’s head man has seen this hometown kid wait patiently on the hometown school, while remaining grounded along the way.
He’ll watch Wieland’s next steps with a smile.
“It’s exciting for the school and for Iowa City to have one of their own — born and raised here, those types of things — go play there,” Sabers said. “Certainly looking forward to see how it all develops.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.