Drew Ott's high school coach shares his, scouts' take on 'ridiculous' situation
Four-and-a-half years ago, Giltner High School football coach Jeff Ashby was convinced that Drew Ott was an NFL player. That was what he told Nebraska coaches who were hesitant about offering the 8-man star a scholarship. Ott waited for the home-state Huskers to offer, but they never did.
Instead, Ott went to Iowa, where he lived up to his coach’s prophetic words.
He is indeed an NFL prospect, but Ott is once again in limbo. Four months after applying for a medical hardship waiver, he still doesn’t know if he’ll return to Iowa City for a fifth year or if the NCAA will deny his appeal, which would force him into the NFL draft pool.
The NCAA hasn’t been in communication with Ott or Iowa coaches, either. They don’t have answers, nor do the Central Nebraskans who are somehow still eagerly waiting on the NCAA to decide Ott’s next step.
“It’s ridiculous,” Ashby said. “They’ve got all the information they need and they know the importance of the NFL draft coming up. It’s killing him in the draft.”
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Ott’s awkward predicament has been well-documented. With the possibility of him returning to school, he obviously couldn’t hire an agent. He did get to take part in the NFL combine and Iowa’s pro day, but he was limited because of his season-ending knee injury. NFL.com gave Ott a 5.14 grade, which means he has a “better-than-average chance to make an NFL roster.”
Ashby took the 90-mile trip east to Lincoln for Nebraska’s pro day. There, he got a chance to talk to a few NFL scouts about his former player’s situation.
“They’re taking it that he’s going back to Iowa at this point,” Ashby said of the scouts. “They’re acting like he’s not available.”
Iowa, meanwhile, had to treat Ott like he won’t be part of their plans in 2016. The team already has a worthy replacement in 6-8, 270-pound Matt Nelson, who has emerged for the Hawkeyes this spring. Ott can’t even participate in team activities. Iowa defensive line coach Hunter Reese, who recruited Ott, shared his growing frustration with the never-ending case.
To make matters worse, Ott is still working his way back from the elbow and knee surgeries that put him in this whole mess. Even though he exceeded the NCAA’s 30-percent threshold for a medical hardship waiver, Ott was only a full participant for two games.
RELATED: The NCAA hasn’t even talked with Drew Ott about his appeal
Ashby remembered watching him suffer the first of his two major injuries in 2015. He knew as well as anyone that Ott was going to try and play through it.
“Hindsight being 20-20, he should’ve just shut it down after his elbow injury against Iowa State because that thing was so bad,” Ashby said. “He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever seen. There’s nobody in the NFL draft tougher than that kid.”
Ashby didn’t just float out a claim like that without reason.
“I mean, he was hit by a car and he played five days later,” Ashby said. “This kid’s unbelievable.”
That’s a true story. By now, people know the stories about Ott.
They know that he can eat a whole raw egg like it’s nothing. They know that he was the first Giltner High School student to ever sign a Division I football scholarship. They know that he rocked a mullet for the better part of his junior season en route to second-team All-B1G honors.
Even in the heart of Nebraska, where the Huskers are the only sports team everyone can agree on, there are still kids that wear black and gold in support of Ott. Ashby said that around Giltner, the frustration with the NCAA is universal.
“I guess I just don’t know what they do there all day long,” he said. “You know the circumstances. How can you not sit in a room for a few hours and make a decision? That’s all Drew wants. He’s not going to be mad one way or the other. He just wants to know.”
RELATED: There might finally be an end in sight with Drew Ott’s ongoing case with the NCAA
Everybody does. People ask Ashby and Ott’s parents regularly if they’ve gotten any updates. Ashby and Ott keep in contact over the phone, and naturally, the pending situation with the NCAA has been a topic of conversation. In their most recent exchange, Ashby offered up some advise.
“‘You need to make a decision pretty quick. If the NCAA doesn’t come down with something…it’s killing you,’” Ashby said he texted Ott on Monday. “It’s gonna cost him a lot of money is what it’s gonna do.”
There were reports out of Iowa’s pro day that Ott put a two-week ultimatum on his decision. If he still hadn’t heard from the NCAA after the two weeks, he would cut his losses and declare for the draft.
That was two weeks ago.
After talking with him, Ashby still isn’t sure what the next step will be for Ott, who has actually been relaxed about the whole process. He even joined the Twitter world and fittingly, his first post was about him hanging out with friends and waiting on #TheDecision.
Awaiting #TheDecision and becoming part of the Twitter world with @BrandonYacu @Omaribrahim94 @KaliPeschel pic.twitter.com/ZmHxbFkjTq
— Drew Ott (@DrewDanielOtt) March 31, 2016
But Ott knows that he’s waited about all he can.
“I asked him if he was ready to declare,” Ashby said. “He said, ‘I’m ready to do something.’”