The Acting Attorney General caught a pass in the 1991 Rose Bowl

UNITED STATES – July 23: Matt Whitaker (R) Iowa is interviewed at Roll Call office in Washington, D.C. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES – July 23: Matt Whitaker (R) Iowa is interviewed at Roll Call office in Washington, D.C. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Nine former athletes were elected to public office on Tuesday night, but one former athlete just got a major promotion without having to run for election.

Matthew Whitaker was tabbed by President Donald Trump to become Acting Attorney General on Wednesday after Trump fired (now-former) Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker was Sessions’ chief of staff, and he was also a tight end for the University of Iowa football team in the early 90s.

Whitaker grew up in Iowa, and was a football star at Ankeny High School. And he was actually a star — his achievements led to his 2009 induction in the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame. The backup tight end played under coach Hayden Fry at the University of Iowa, and was the starting tight end when Iowa played (and lost to) the Washington Huskies in the 1991 Rose Bowl.

Whitaker made one catch in the 1991 Rose Bowl, and he told that it stands tall in his memory.

Whitaker’s most memorable catch as a Hawkeye wasn’t a touchdown reception, it was a 9-yard grab against Washington in the 1991 Rose Bowl — Iowa’s most recent appearance in Pasadena.

“One of the greatest experiences I ever had as a Hawkeye was playing in that Rose Bowl game and having a catch,” he said. “To this day I can brag to anyone who will listen that I had a catch in the Rose Bowl.”

Whitaker played just a few seasons for Iowa and he had 21 catches, 203 yards, and two touchdowns over his career. One of those touchdowns came from a fake punt that he caught right in the end zone.

You can see that play in its entirety on Youtube, but there’s a weirder place you can find it: in a political ad. Whitaker ran for senate in Iowa in 2014, and really wanted to make sure everyone knew he’d played football for the Hawkeyes. So he used a football field as the background in a political ad, and included footage of his fake punt touchdown catch.

Whitaker even included Coach Fry in the ad, saying “he taught us to always fight for Iowa” as Coach Fry reacts to Whitaker’s touchdown catch on the sidelines. In fact, “you can trust me to fight for Iowa” is the last line of the commercial.

Will Whitaker’s football skills help him as Acting Attorney General? We’re all about to find out.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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