116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Iowa offensive lineman Josh Koeppel is big and tough. “Tough as nails,” said fellow Hawkeye offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde.
Monday morning in downtown Iowa City, Koeppel was also lucky. Sometimes, lucky is a lot better.
Koeppel was driving what police termed a small motorcycle westbound on Burlington Street, crossing the intersection with Gilbert Street. It was 7:25 a.m.
A pickup truck was eastbound on Burlington. Its driver tried to turn left onto Gilbert and hit Koeppel in the intersection. An Iowa City police officer witnessed the accident, and cited the pickup driver for failing to yield.
Koeppel was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he was released later in the day.
The senior from Iowa City sounds like an unlikely participant in the Hawkeyes' season-opener against Eastern Illinois Saturday. Tuesday, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Koeppel had “scrapes, bruises, significant soreness.” It pretty much guaranteed sophomore James Ferentz would start ahead of senior Koeppel at center on Saturday.
No tragedy, that. You shudder to think about another way this story could have turned out.
“It's definitely crazy,” said Iowa starting offensive tackle Markus Zusevics. “We're obviously really happy he didn't get seriously injured. It was a freak accident, something nobody would expect.”
It sounds like Koeppel, who made the dean's list last school year, did nothing wrong other than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the episode brings unease to many who combine these images: “Crowded college town” and “motor scooters.”
“I've been worried for 11 years on a couple fronts,” Ferentz said. “First of all, very few (of his many players who drive mopeds) wear helmets. That's the number one concern.
“Secondly, they're just not protected whether they're on a motorcycle or moped.”
A coach could try to ban his players from using the vehicles, but “I don't know if we could,” Ferentz said, “and I probably wouldn't consider it just because we've got some severe parking issues here.”
That's the truth. I paid a visit to someone Tuesday morning who lives near Hancher Auditorium, and spent more time looking for a parking spot than I did with the visit. Iowa City and the university are to parking what Adrian Clayborn is to opposing offensive linemen.
“Why (mopeds) are so popular with the players,” said Ferentz, “is they can at least park those on campus. They can park those around here (at the football building). They can't park their cars here.
“It's a very popular form of transportation, so we just encourage them to be careful. And also to wear helmets, but we haven't been very successful on that front.”
Vandervelde, however, said he frequently uses a helmet.
“In the winter, anyway," he said. "My mom would absolutely kill me if I didn't.”
“(The scooters) are a good way to get around. You can cross campus in five minutes.”
Ferentz offered a different solution to the transportation situation, but knows his players won't buy into it.
“A bicycle would be good,” he said. “But that's a little old-fashioned right now.”