UNI Panthers

Cal Twait hoping to end successful UNI football career with memorable season

Offensive lineman wasn't recruited heavily, but has been key player for Panthers

Northern Iowa Panthers offensive lineman Cal Twait (75) poses for a picture during Northern Iowa Football Media Day at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa Panthers offensive lineman Cal Twait (75) poses for a picture during Northern Iowa Football Media Day at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa offensive lineman Cal Twait is in the midst of putting a bow on what’s been nothing short of a terrific football career.

The Manson native arrived at UNI in 2015 and found himself playing left tackle in just his second game as a true freshman.

“I didn’t start (against Eastern Washington), but I played quite a bit of (that game),” Twait said. “I told my dad that (the coaches) told me I was going to play (that) week and he just told me that they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready, if you weren’t capable of doing it. So I tried to just use that advice and just kind of trusted myself (and) trusted the teammates around me. It ended up going pretty well. It was a great game in the Dome. Probably one of my favorite games we’ve played (at the UNI-Dome).”

Twait was not a prized recruit that was ever promised a starting spot. Rather, he cut his teeth against former all-conference defensive end Isaac Ales in his first fall camp. After being accustomed to dominating high school practices, he overcame a steep learning curve that first fall and earned the respect from his coaches that allowed him to avoid a redshirt season.

“I remember when Coach (Mark) Farley was recruiting me, he said that he prefers to redshirt guys, but if he thinks the guy can help the team, win he’s not going to redshirt them,” Twait said. “Some things worked out and we didn’t have too much depth at tackle that year. I had a pretty decent fall camp and it just ended up working out that I played that year.”

Not too long after solidifying himself as a contributor on UNI’s offensive line, Twait was met with adversity. Appearing in his seventh game as a Panther, he tore all the ligaments in his left ankle. An arduous rehab process confronted the 18-year-old, who had been dreaming about an illustrious career as a four-year starter at left tackle. Twait explained that although he’s always had a burning passion for the game, his experience of returning from such a catastrophic injury gave him an even greater appreciation for the game.

“One of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life,” Twait said of his ankle injury. “Because I’m an 18-year-old kid that just got to college and you go through your first fall camp and that’s brutal in its own right. That whole first year was just a blur and then to just have it end so suddenly on the Dome turf, that was real unfortunate. It was a really tough rehab. It was just a difficult thing to go through, but I’m glad I eventually came back from it.”

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Now in his senior season, Twait is hoping to be a part of a team that leaves a mark in the UNI record books. However, while the team’s goals for 2018 are big, he and his teammates along the offensive line are not looking past a daunting matchup this Saturday against Iowa.

“We see (Iowa) as a great challenge,” Twait said. “We know that they have very capable players and we just talked about how you just have to go back to your techniques. Have good habits during the game and, at the end of the day, give it all you’ve got.”

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