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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As Henry Marchese stood about as close to the field at Memorial Stadium while still being in the seating bowl, a man walking along the sideline had an endearing message for the former Hawkeye football player.
It was about his brother Michael, a tight end at Illinois.
“Your brother is the man,” the man blurted to Marchese. “I hope he f---s you guys up.”
Marchese had no idea who the man was at the time.
It was another part of an Iowa-Illinois game that already had a case of “classic Marchese competitiveness.” Saturday marked the last time Henry could see Michael play against Henry and his father’s alma mater.
Most of the Marchese family was donning Illinois blue and orange to support Michael, but Henry couldn’t bear to do it.
“I hope he does well, but I’m always rooting for the black and gold,” Henry said ahead of the game.
It was a year after another special moment for the twins. Last year, Illinois’ trip to Iowa on Nov. 20 meant Michael could be there for Henry’s senior day.
As it was Henry’s turn to be recognized during the pregame senior day festivities in 2021, Michael was there with the rest of the family to celebrate with him.
“It’s once-in-a-lifetime,” Henry said. “You don’t see two Iowa-Illinois guys hugging it out before the game.”
They had an assist from the head coaches — Kirk Ferentz and Bret Bielema — along with Iowa director of football administration Ben Hansen and Illinois’ staff to logistically make it work.
“That’s one of the best games to my memory as I grow older,” Henry said.
Michael Marchese, who is using his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility, has gone from a walk-on who mostly played special teams to playing a key role at tight end. He is fourth on the Illini this season in receiving yards and tied for first in touchdown receptions.
As expected for someone whose twin brother played five years at Iowa, Michael Marchese knows several Hawkeyes — Riley Moss, Spencer Petras and Tory Taylor, to name a few.
“Everyone knows each other,” Henry said. “Friendly banter is going on. ... It’s always a fun game.”
The “special” night Saturday at Memorial Stadium had a not-so-special finish. Michael Marchese suffered an injury in the second half and did not record any offensive stats. Henry Marchese’s beloved Hawkeyes obviously lost, too.
The latter part of that at least led to some good news for Michael.
“He wants nothing but to beat Iowa,” Henry said beforehand. “It’s a big game for him.”