Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann (49) against USC in the Holiday Bowl Friday, December 27, 2019 at San Diego Community Credit Union Stadium.  (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)
Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann (49) against USC in the Holiday Bowl Friday, December 27, 2019 at San Diego Community Credit Union Stadium. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com) — Brian Ray

Nick Niemann said it wasn't easy watching other college conferences – and even his own brother – play while his Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 planned on waiting until spring.

"I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't jealous of those other guys," said the Sycamore graduate, a senior linebacker for the Hawkeyes. "I'm the furthest person that needs to be making any of these decisions. But I definitely had some questions about it and that stuff. But I couldn't do anything about it. I was just sitting there helpless."

But the conference reversed course last week, and Iowa will start its season October 24 at Purdue.

Niemann said the team was in the weight room at the time of the announcement and there was a pretty palpable mood change among the players.

"In the past when we've been working out and stuff, everyone was still working out hard and giving a good effort and all that stuff, but you could tell there was something missing and guys were just down and stuff," Niemann said. "Then when we found out it was like a new wave of energy went through the guys on the team. We were really excited."

He said on the whole, summer and fall workouts have definitely been off.

"The workouts over the summer had been inconsistent, which is no one's fault, just because of corona," Niemann said. "We'd start working out, then a couple guys would test positive so we'd have to break for a week. So the training has been inconsistent which has forced us to start practicing at a more entry level so guys aren't getting hurt with soft tissue injuries and things like that."

Rapid testing will begin next week, Niemann said, and that will change the tone of practices.

"Once that starts we should be able to go more full throttle," Niemann said. "We can be comfortable knowing if there's positive cases before practice starts. So we're going to ramp it up here."

On the plus side, Niemann did get a chance to watch his brother, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Ben Niemann play in person during Week 1.

"Me and my parents got to go to Ben's first game," Niemann said. "We weren't playing. So we hadn't been able to do that before. It had always been way late in the year when college was done and the Chiefs were in the playoffs. It's super fun to get to watch Ben especially with his role being increased year by year. It's been a blast to watch him."

Niemann said while some stray thoughts about his own potential NFL career enter his mind, his focus is on the abbreviated Big 10 season.

"I think 99% of guys that are playing big-time football in college, that's in the back of their mind,": Niemann said. "You want to be the best player you can be, and if you are playing your best you're capable of it, that should be an opportunity for some of them. But you got to do what you can do at the time and just play. For me, my focus is on this year and taking it week by week. Everything else will come along with it."

He said the past couple months were hard, wading through conflicting reports of whether there would be a fall season or not.

But after about seven practices into the fall season, he said he's glad things are sorted out and he's returning to the field.

"I felt pretty bad when they canceled it actually, thinking I was going to have to watch all the other conference play," Niemann said. "Obviously I'm really excited, whether we have fans or not. Just getting out there and being able to play with the guys is what it's all about. I'm excited to be able to do that and make the most of it."