Iowa Football

Dalton Ferguson: Blocker, mentor, and now father

Iowa senior offensive lineman from Solon has had quite a September


Iowa offensive lineman Dalton Ferguson (76) warms up before the Hawkeyes' game against Northern Iowa last Saturday at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa offensive lineman Dalton Ferguson (76) warms up before the Hawkeyes' game against Northern Iowa last Saturday at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Dalton Ferguson’s job Saturday night is to block big men on Wisconsin’s defense.

That won’t affect the Iowa fifth-year senior offensive lineman from Solon nearly as much as holding a pair of tiny twin baby girls who are his daughters.

“To be able to hold both of them at the same time on my chest for the first time was really quite remarkable,” Ferguson said Tuesday.

“Some of the coaches and strength coaches were telling me (the first time you hold your child) is a magical feeling that words can’t describe. I was like ‘Give me a few words,’ and they couldn’t. So I was really looking forward to it.”

Ferguson’s girlfriend of almost a year-and-a-half, named Rachael, gave birth to Ella and Hazel on Sept. 7, early in the morning of the day before the Iowa State-Iowa game at Kinnick Stadium.

“I was nervous because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it to the birth,” Ferguson said. “I know with twins it could happen any time. I was nervous I was going to be at a game and she was going to go into labor.”

It worked out.

Last Saturday night, the wave everyone in Kinnick does to the kids in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital meant a lot to Ferguson. Rachael, a UI graduate from Colorado who plans on being a sonographer, is staying in a hotel in the hospital. Because they were born five weeks premature, the twins — one was 5 pounds, 8 ounces and the other 3 pounds, 4 ounces — will be in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Children’s Hospital for a while.

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“I tried not to get lost in the moment,” Ferguson said about looking at the hospital during the wave last Saturday. “I was trying to make sure I was focusing on the game. I gave up a sack in the first quarter, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too sidetracked.

“The moment was very special, though.”

Ferguson started at right guard that night in place of injured Cole Banwart. Two weeks earlier, he made his first career start, at left tackle after two starters were suspended for the season’s first game.

“Dalton has been a great kid since he got in the program,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, who elevated Ferguson from a walk-on to a scholarship player last month. “Worked hard. Quietly goes about his business. … Everything (that) comes his way, he handles it levelheadedly and steady.

“Hopefully his whole season goes well for him. He’s doing a great job.”

Ferguson is the first-team right guard on this week’s depth chart. He has two babies in the hospital. He’s finishing his college education. Plates don’t get much fuller.

“I only need six semester hours to graduate, and I’m in two online classes right now. So that helps a lot.”

As for the committed relationship/father-of-two/football player parts of his life, “It’s been extremely overwhelming, the first few days,” Ferguson said.

“I don’t think I did a very good job with time management in those days, but I think I’ve gotten the grasp the last couple of days on what I need to be doing to get myself prepared for a game and embrace that role as a father.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, Ferguson hopes his career path is helping young college football players how to manage time and multiple demands.

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“I want to get into player development, similar to (Iowa director of player development) Broderick Binns, or Chic Ejiasi of the Titans,” Ferguson said. Ejiasi is a former Hawkeye player/staffer who is the Tennessee Titans’ director of player engagement.

“I’ve tried to be a mentor for some of our freshmen linemen and help them with the transition from high school to not just college, but playing in a Division I program. I think that’s something that needs more attention than people realize, so I want to make sure I can bridge that gap a lot easier for players.”

After perhaps reluctantly talking about himself to reporters in Iowa’s football building Tuesday, Ferguson went to the hospital to see his girlfriend and the twins. Then it would be back to the football building for meetings, and then back to the hospital.

Saturday night’s game in the big stadium between the big football building and the big hospital is big. So is Ferguson’s role in it. But he recently faced a far-bigger moment, didn’t he?

Video courtesy of Hawkvision

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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