IOWA CITY — They may be two of the Hawkeyes’ biggest football names, but Nile Kinnick and Hayden Fry were honored by the University of Iowa for a different kind of role Wednesday night.
Kinnick and Fry were among six members of the armed forces that were given Hawkeye Distinguished Veterans Memorial Awards for their service to their county and the university community. The other recipients were Specialist 4 David Drake, Captain Luther Smith, Captain Jeremy Williams and Hospital Corpsman Willard L. “Sandy” Boyd.
“Coach Fry would want me to start off talking a little bit about Nile ... . His accomplishments as a valued member of the Hawkeyes has been well documented,” said Don Patterson, one of Fry’s assistant coaches who accepted the awards on behalf of both Kinnick and Fry. “You could literally spend hours talking about him for all he accomplished in his short life.”
Both Kinnick, an ensign, and Smith served in World War II. Kinnick died on training flight off the coast of Venezuela in 1943 after having won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the university,
Smith, who sustained serious injuries and was captured and held as a prisoner of war on his final mission, went on to graduate from the UI after his service and become the first black aerospace engineer for General Electric.
Boyd, a former UI law professor and president, was at the ceremony to receive his award. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1947.
“I feel very honored to be selected for this,” Boyd said at the ceremony. “I think service to our country is something that we all can do in many ways, whether it be in the military or serving in other nonprofit responsibilities and I urge you all to do so.”
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Drake, who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Cambodia, is a UI graduate in history and Latin. He began writing more seriously after his service, often using science fiction to “distance himself from memories too tender for him to address directly,” according to information supplied by the university.
Fry had served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a captain before becoming the UI’s head football coach, the role he held from 1979 to 1998. During his time as a Marine, he played on the Quantico Marines Football team and had an opportunity to coach.
Fry “always felt that treating football players the right way and motivating football players the right way is very very similar in so many ways to being a young lieutenant and needing to motivate those people that are within your platoon or being your company commander or as a captain,” Patterson said. “He took great pride in his military service.”
Williams is the most recent veteran honored at Wednesday’s ceremony. He deployed to Kuwait in 2011 before serving as a veterans resource specialist at the UI.
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