Iowa Football

Iowa takes Tigerhawk logos off helmets to honor Hayden Fry in Holiday Bowl

Fry started this tradition when the program had something to mourn, which it most certainly does this month

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz watches the action during practice Monday, December 23, 2019 at Mesa College in Sa
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz watches the action during practice Monday, December 23, 2019 at Mesa College in San Diego. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — It should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the Hawkeyes during Hayden Fry’s 20 years that he actually invented the way the team will honor him Friday in the Holiday Bowl.

Fry, Iowa’s head coach from 1979-98, died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 90 years old. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Monday after practice that the Hawkeyes will face USC with the Tigerhawks taken off both sides of the helmet. Also, earlier this month, former Iowa athletics director Bump Elliott (1970-91) died at the age 94. Ferentz said the team will wear a sticker that says “Bump” on the backs of its helmets.

“The precedent was set, he did that twice during his time,” Ferentz said. “It was well received by (Fry’s) children.”

The Gazette's special section celebrating Hayden Fry

In 2020, the Hawkeyes will wear a patch to honor Fry. Ferentz consulted with the Fry family about the helmet idea this week. He wanted this to be right.

Fry brought the Tigerhawk to Iowa when he was hired in 1978. Elliott, the man who hired Fry, gave the coach a lot of room to do his thing, which included the Tiger Hawk logo, the ANF sticker and so much more.

In a way, you could argue Fry also invented what’s become “half staff” for the program.

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In 1991, five people in the University of Iowa community — a student, three members of the physics faculty and a UI associate vice president — were killed on campus during a shooting. In 1996, Diane Mitchell, the mother of Iowa linebacker Mark Mitchell, died in a car accident in Iowa as the Mitchell family was traveled to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl.

After both incidents, Iowa wore plain black helmets.

“It just seemed fitting with the tragedy in the early ’90s that he recognized and then before a bowl game, coincidentally, so it just seemed like the right thing. His kids were very enthused about the idea.”

One of Ferentz’s laments with Fry’s passing has been that Ferentz’s later teams didn’t get a chance to be in the Hayden swirl. The last time Fry addressed one of Ferentz’s teams was before the 2006 Alamo Bowl. Fry did less traveling as age and illness took hold.

“The current team knows of him, but never really had a chance to interface,” Ferentz said. “Coach Fry hasn’t been traveling a lot the last four or five years. They didn’t have that opportunity. That’s my biggest regret with the present team. Every time he’s been in front of our team, the players get a sense of why he was so special just from any visitation. This roster hasn’t had that experience. That’s one of those regrets you have.”

Iowa's Southern Cal influence

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa is Samoan and he’s extremely proud of it. During his three seasons at Iowa, the Samoan tattoo he has on his right shoulder has grown into a sleeve. The tattoo is a tribute to American Samoa, where Epenesa’s dad, Epenesa “Eppy” Epenesa, grew up.

Southern California has the largest population of Samoan-Americans in the country, with somewhere close to 60,000 in Los Angeles and 35,000 in San Diego.

Epenesa has two uncles and an aunt in Los Angeles. A.J. said Monday each of them has at least four children. One of Epenesa’s cousins is Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, a UCLA grad who played for the Atlanta Falcons this year. Tuioti-Mariner has two brothers. Clarence played football at Hawaii and Max played at Colorado.

“My dad is from the island (Samoa), but a lot of his family moved here,” Epenesa said. “I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Oceanside and the LA suburbs where my family is from.”

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Holiday Bowl quick slants

— There was no real news with Hawkeyes going to the NFL. Epenesa and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs spoke to media on Monday. Both said the process is “ongoing.”

— All Hawkeyes are present and accounted for on the trip. Ferentz did say, however, that a few injured players aren’t practicing.

— Ferentz gave what might have been his most positive update on wide receiver Brandon Smith, who’s been out since October after suffering a high ankle sprain. Smith has been dressed for games and has even played one emergency snap, but hasn’t been active.

“I feel better today than the last time I saw you guys, he’s practicing now and seems to be doing well,” Ferentz said.

Smith has missed five games and has 33 catches for 407 yards and four TDs. In 12 games last season Smith caught 28 passes.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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