116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Fall camp is eating, sleeping and breathing football, and while the veterans have it down, the younger players are still learning the ropes.
For the month of August, players are living in hotel rooms at the Marriott with teammates assigned as roommates and regimented schedules of practice, workouts, film and even scheduled meal times.
“It's supposed to be a draining thing, I think that's the point,” junior wide receiver Nico Ragaini said. “They want to make you surrounded by football for as long as you possibly can to break you down and make you strong enough to stay positive.”
Ragaini said the mental toll of camp is what might be the most grueling, but it teaches players how not to spend time dwelling on a bad day of practice or a particular mistake.
As one of the younger players on the team, redshirt freshman quarterback Deuce Hogan said he’s rooming with true freshman quarterback Joey Labas, who is experiencing his first camp. While Hogan didn’t get a true fall camp last year, he said he’s tried to be a guide for Labas.
“When you get here, especially playing quarterback, you're going to feel like you're drowning,” Hogan said. "It’s kind of inevitable. I would say don’t let anything weigh too much. If you have a great day, don’t get too high. When you have a bad day, don’t let it get to you.“
But there’s also resources players shouldn’t forget about when it comes to the mental aspect of fall camp. Like the people closest to you.
“You’re also probably gonna need definitely that go-to person, either as a mom, dad, best friend,” junior wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. said. “Whoever it is, you're gonna have days that are hard and you're gonna have days that make you second-guess playing football. So I think that once you have that go-to person that can always encourage you, no matter what the situation is, you’ll get through it.”
Tips on how to survive fall camp ranged from basic needs, like hydration and sleep, to more unique options, like kombucha or interesting literature choices.
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Tracy: “You’re definitely going to need a lot of water, like a lot of water. You definitely gotta get in the cold tub daily.”
Junior safety Kaevon Merriweather: “Get sleep, get as much sleep as possible. Like, honestly, try to get off your feet as much as you can. Because you're living on your feet and mentally thinking 24/7 football. So if you can get away from football for at least 10 minutes, that will get you through.
“When I hit a certain time, I click my phone off and put it as far away as possible and just leave it there. I don't touch it the rest of the night because I love being on my phone, like TikTok will keep me up ‘til like 3 a.m. I don't know why, but the funny videos just pop up around midnight they keep you up for the next three hours.”
Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla: “Lot of sleep and a lot of Netflix. Spencer (Petras) and I try to keep things light with music, we both like the same music.”
Petras: “I’m a big kombucha fan, I drink a ton of it every day. I get it after a little afternoon conditioning, my favorite flavor is probably pomegranate Health-Ade. Some guys like cookies, some guys like pop or whatever. But yeah, Alex and I have been to two Tyler Childers concerts together, once in Nashville in February of 2020 and once in Illinois in 2019.”
Junior running back Tyler Goodson: “Make sure you're taking care of your body. If you don't take care of your body, it's like taking care of a car. It’ll break down.”
Senior defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg: “I like to read, so right now I'm reading a book called Russia Resurrected, which is about Russian foreign policy.”
Senior cornerback Matt Hankins: “Keep being consistent with everything that you do, whether it's waking up early in the morning and getting to the facilities an hour and a half before everything starts, so we can just walk in and mentally see what we’ve got to do, get prepared.”
Freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson: “We go home for two hours and then we sleep, so that's really your only time to yourself right now. You do love the game, but you have to really soak this in, not just try to get through the day, but try to take something out of the day.”