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IOWA CITY - The Iowa alternative uniform week is finally here. This is what you've all been waiting for. You needed a jackhammer to punch through the excitement that surrounded the Hansen Performance Center on Tuesday.
The players were jacked.
'It definitely will be nice to change it up a little bit,” senior center Austin Blythe said. 'I'm not a huge uniform guy. You put it on and you wear it. You represent what you wear, especially the name on the front.”
OK, so maybe not an electric moment for all of the No. 5 (College Football Playoff rankings) Hawkeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten), who've piled alternative uniforms, a pregame wrestling meet (Iowa vs. Oklahoma State) and a night game into this weekend's matchup with Minnesota (4-5, 1-4).
The players got a glimpse of the 'blackout” uniforms on Monday. They do say 'Iowa” on the front, that much was revealed in September. They are all black. That was it for the hints. The Iowa football social media brigade will unveil the uniform in a 'hit tape” that is scheduled to come out at 4:30 on Saturday, before the Hawkeyes 7 p.m. kickoff.
'They showed them to us yesterday in the meeting room,” senior linebacker Cole Fisher said. 'They said, ‘Here you go, this is it, so you guys aren't thinking about this all week long.' That was probably a good idea, really.”
Iowa is a college football team with players from everywhere. That's generally how college football teams are built. As you can imagine, midwestern players were a little more reserved in their reactions. Many of these guys would go out on the field in a towel and flip-flops.
'Everyone has a personal preference. For me, it's not that important,” said guard Sean Welsh, a native of Springboro, Ohio. 'Some people enjoy dressing up a little bit.”
Running back Akrum Wadley is from Newark, N.J., a big city on the east coast. He's shown some substance the last few weeks, rushing for 391 yards, so this man has earned his say on style.
'Speaking for me, I haven't played in a different uniform here,” Wadley said. 'They should be sweet. They showed us a sneak peek of them, they look sweet. I always say if you look good, you're going to play good.
'It means a lot to us. We have a night game, the crowd is going to be electrifying. New uniforms, it couldn't be better.”
Offensive tackle Cole Croston walked into the interview area Tuesday wearing a black Carhartt hoodie. It's a garment built for warmth and work and not for style. So, no, he's not looking for a shiny uniform, but another interesting factor with Croston is that he was literally born into the Iowa Tiger Hawk uniform. His dad, Dave, was an all-American at Iowa in 1986. The current Iowa uniform, which has - minus the winged jersey debacle and a few other modifieds in the mid-1990s - been around since Hayden Fry asked the Pittsburgh Steelers to copy their look in 1979, is all he knows.
'It's something that doesn't change,” he said. 'A lot of other teams, like Oregon just to name one, they change uniforms every game. I think our uniforms kind of signify our game. We're going to do the same thing in and out of every game.”
Quarterback C.J. Beathard is from Nashville, Tenn., a town that has a prime-time soap opera named after it and, of course, a deep history in country music. He into it.
'I think some of the offensive linemen, they're basic. They'll go out there and do whatever,” Beathard said. 'Some of the skill guys . . . I think it's cool, it's going to be awesome. They're cool uniforms. You can't let that get to your head. It's not going to help you play the game any better than the other jerseys are.”
That last sentiment from Beathard. That sort of reminds you who coaches this team.
Yes, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz finally caved on the alternative uniform thing this winter. He said a few younger members of the staff brought up the idea. It gained momentum and you can judge the fashion show Saturday night.
Tuesday, Ferentz greeted the uniform question with a mountain of sarcasm.
On where alt uniforms stood on the offseason list of priorities? 'That got on the agenda,” Ferentz said. 'It was down at the bottom, but it got on the agenda.”
His take on the players first seeing the uniforms (threw head and hands back in mock amazement): 'It was really a dramatic moment in my life,” Ferentz deadpanned.
'It's kind of the sign of the times,” he said. 'Players like it, they think it's great, so I'm not a total tyrant. Every now and then, we've got to throw them a bone and let them enjoy it.”
Many of the players said they do actually love Iowa's uniforms, the ones you've seen nearly every game since Ferentz became head coach in 1999 (there have been a handful of throwback uniforms). These are the uniforms Iowa wore when Ferentz was hired as offensive line coach at Iowa in 1981. In his mind, they are right there with Classic Coke.
'To me, why would you change when we've got classic uniforms?” Ferentz said. 'There are several teams in college football who do, so why would you change those?”
On taste and smell, there is no point in arguing. Ferentz has gone with the flow here. And the puck drops in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks any minute now.
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