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Iowa's Bulaga has NFL in his future
By Jason Lieser | Special to the Daily Herald

Bryan Bulaga

 

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi gets a hug from offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, who played his high school football at Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock and still lives in Crystal Lake.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 1/5/2010 12:01 AM

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Shortly after Iowa was chosen to play in this year's Orange Bowl, Marian Central Catholic football coach Ed Brucker decided to cash in some frequent flyer miles.

Brucker and his family will be in Miami Gardens, Fla., to watch former Marian standout Bryan Bulaga and the 10-ranked Hawkeyes take on No. 9 Georgia Tech at Land Shark Stadium on Tuesday (7 p.m., Channel 32).

"It's a dream come true for me," Brucker said. "As a coach, you always think of having someone of that caliber and I'd never had one. It'll be pretty special to see him play in that game."

Bulaga, a junior offensive tackle who still lives in Crystal Lake, overcame a thyroid condition that kept him out of three games to earn all-Big Ten honors this season. Iowa guard Dace Richardson and tight end Tony Moeaki, both of whom played at Warrenville South, also were named first-team all-conference.

At 6-feet-6, 312 pounds, Bulaga is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft if he decides to end his Iowa career after the Orange Bowl.

Brucker believes that will happen and Bulaga sounded like he was leaning that way when he spoke this week.

Unfortunately for Bulaga, there is little chance he will end up with his hometown Bears.

"That'd be a dream destination," he said in a news conference at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. "If I got to pick, that's where I'd be. But I don't even think they have a first-round pick."

They don't, and most analysts project Bulaga to go no later than the middle of the first round.

He will spend some of Tuesday's game lining up against another potential NFL first-rounder, Yellow Jackets defensive end Derrick Morgan.

While most of the attention leading up to the Orange Bowl has centered on whether the Hawkeyes can slow down Georgia Tech's prolific spread option offense, one of the best individual matchups will be Bulaga vs. Morgan.

"He's mostly on the right, but he will come over to my side a good amount of times," Bulaga said. "You just don't know until game time, but he'll be my problem a handful of times."

Bulaga began his varsity career at Marian as a 6-5, 250-pound linebacker and tight end before he moved to the offensive line as a senior. The Hurricanes went 13-1 in 2006, his senior year, and reached the state championship game.

He picked up attention from major programs throughout the Midwest, including Notre Dame and Oklahoma, and Brucker said he was the first Marian player to sign with a BCS school in roughly a decade.

"He helped get our program back on track," said Brucker, Marian's coach for the past seven seasons. "We've had several D-I prospects after Bryan, but he got it going.

"He had all the intangibles, the intelligence and the desire. You throw that in with the physical strength and quickness and he was an intimidating force."

Iowa (10-2) has six local players expected to dress for the Orange Bowl, including guard Dan Doering (Barrington), tackle Markus Zusevics (Prospect) and fullback Wade Leppert (Mundelein).

Former Naperville North star linebacker Osahon Tongo is a second-string defensive end for the Yellow Jackets (11-2).