COMMUNITY JOURNALISM: A day inside Kinnick Stadium

Another story from the Ladies Football Academy at the University of Iowa

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Editor's note: Carol Ecker of Cedar Rapids is one of three women who submitted stories after attending the University of Iowa''s second annual Ladies Football Academy, a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital.

IOWA CITY — Good Golly, Miss Molly!

What a great Saturday afternoon we had in Kinnick Stadium, attending the second annual Ladies’ Football Academy. Let me preface this by saying that I am 70 years old — and this certainly was not the average age of the 400-plus women attending this fun, fun event created and presented by Mary Ferentz.

I attended last year, so I knew what to expect. I knew a lot of physical activity was involved, but I had forgotten how truly funny all the coaches on Kirk Ferentz’s staff are. Coach Ferentz is no slouch in this category, either, and he was with us the entire day, signing team posters, watching all the drills and being very, very gracious.

I was amazed to see that the state trooper, the one we see at all the games, was constantly by Coach Ferentz’s side the entire day.

Each position coach held a clinic on the turf at Kinnick. My group, wearing purple wristbands, started with the quarterbacks coach. We did drills with four quarterbacks, including James Vandenberg, who is much taller than I realized and looks very young. His new coach is Greg Davis from Texas, the offensive coordinator, and I got to meet his charming wife Patsy.

By the way, coach Davis is delightful and he had my group in stitches trying to teach us how quarterbacks do the “three step back” maneuver and the “six step back” one. We had to do each of these, putting our lead foot “over six o’clock” on the first step back (running backward). At one point — when none of us could get it — coach Davis yelled out “No, No, No. How many times do I have to tell ya, put that foot over six o’clock or you’re going to be trippin’ yourself.” He has a delightful southern accent, as does Patsy, and you all are going to like them a lot.

As with last year, I love all the coaches and their terrific rapport with us, but my favorite still is Darrell Wilson. He could be a stand-up comedian. I patted coach Reese Morgan on the arm and was amazed at how tight his muscles are.

Fifty-one Hawkeye team members and nine position coaches took part in this event. The impressive part of the day for me was realizing how every coach, their wives, and these young athletes, gave up their Saturday to be with us. Being around these huge, handsome and very polite young men was what made me come back again this year. As fans in the stadium, we don’t get to see the “boys” up close, but on an academy afternoon, we really get to know them and gain so much more respect for what they do on the field.

It isn’t easy, folks.

Our day started with registration at 1 p.m. in the indoor club level of Kinnick Stadium. Here is where we paid the required $500 to take part in this event, with all proceeds going to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. The goal for most was to raise more than $500 and Mary Ferentz announced in the closing ceremonies that we as a group raised $337,000. Pam Passmore alone raised $13,500 and other top fundraisers got very nice prizes at the end of the day.

Next was the Game Day Experience, where we were loaded onto a bus and driven around to the front of Kinnick, with Casey McMillan onboard telling us what it is like for the team during the ride south from Cedar Rapids on a Saturdays during the season. The rule is: quiet. No one talks. Some listen to iPod music, but all are focused on the game ahead. By the way, Casey is a senior defensive lineman from Billings, Mont., and was wearing a cowboy hat. The player on the other bus was wearing a business suit. Casey told us on game day no one is allowed on the bus without wearing a suit and tie.

Next we did “The Hawk Walk” — from the bus into the south end of Kinnick, being sure to stay on the dark gray bricks and to touch Nile Kinnick’s helmet. Dave Raih, offensive graduate assistant, met us before we took “The Walk” and made sure we all knew the history of Nile Kinnick. He did a great job, plus he and Chris Polizzi, defensive graduate assistant, later treated us to some very fancy dance moves.

The Hawk Walk took us into the stadium and to the home locker room, which is very bright, cheery and tidy. We were treated to a film there on a big screen and shown how the locker assignments are made. All lockers have no doors and the place looks very modern and upbeat. I was again impressed.

We did “The Swarm” in the tunnel — lining up just as the team does and getting each other all pumped and excited for the “game.” Boy, is it noisy in that tunnel. We held hands, including all the players who were with us, and ran onto the field through the lineup of greeters giving us high fives, including Coach Ferentz at the front of the line, and all the team cheerleaders.

Then we started the position drills on the field, but not before the team trainer took us through a series of warm-up and stretching drills. We didn’t need a lot of warm-up. It was 90 degrees and that artificial turf gets very, very hot. Everyone made sure we had plenty of water. There were huge tubs everywhere filled with lots of ice and all the bottled water anyone needed.

What a fun day it was and what wonderful young men we have on our Hawkeye team, not to mention the terrific group of coaches and staff who obviously care about them, nurture them and show them a heck of a good time along the way in their young football careers at Iowa.

P.S. — We got to see the visitor’s pink locker room.

Here are links to the other stories:


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