You think the Hawkeyes can fly anywhere in Iowa City and get the royal treatment. It’s Iowa City and they’re the Hawkeyes. The Iowa City sea parts for the players.
Sound of game show buzzer for a wrong answer.
The University of Iowa football facilities have been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic response. That includes places as seemingly innocuous as FieldTurf fields where players can simply run and perform conditioning drills and maybe some football fundamentals. So, the quest for the Hawkeyes who decided to stay in Iowa City during quarantine has been to find a good, solid field for conditioning workouts.
Defensive end Chauncey Golston and the four other Hawkeyes he lives with have found their spots, but it took some looking.
“The schools are closed and the grounds are closed, so the groundskeepers are doing their jobs,” Golston said during a Thursday video conference. “You can’t hate on someone for doing their job.”
Golston’s group started at Iowa City High and didn’t last very long. Then, it was off to Iowa City West.
“We wanted to stay on turf, and then we got kicked out of West,” Golston said. “Then, we went to a park. It was good, we never got kicked out, but it was grass and it’s been raining, so that wasn’t really productive. Then, we went back to West and it’s worked. I got a workout in today.”
Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and staff set up six squat/weight racks around Iowa City, where a good majority of Hawkeyes have posted up during the pandemic.
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That’s helped keep some blood in the veins for the team, but not everyone is in Iowa City.
Senior defensive tackle Austin Schulte is back home in Pella.
“You definitely miss the environment you have in the Iowa weight room,” Schulte said. “Lifting with 30 or 40 guys definitely has a different atmosphere than working out by yourself in a garage.”
Schulte is working in a bona fide garage gym. The Iowa strength staff supplied a barbell and some 45-pound plates. Schulte built himself a bench and a squat rack out of 2x4s. He also installed a pull-up bar.
“That’s what I’ve been using the last couple of months,” Schulte said. “It was difficult to get it to stand up and hold the weight I needed it to hold, but I got it all braced up and it’s doing well.”
As far as D-lineman fundamentals go, Schulte has been working with his younger brother, who happens to be a D-lineman going into his sophomore year at Pella High School. This is where we need to mention that Schulte is majoring in mechanical engineering. During the pandemic, you take what you have and make it work for you.
This also includes little brothers.
“It’s been cool. I’ve definitely enjoyed the time with my family and being able to really connect with them,” Schulte said. “Just trying to teach my brother everything I know. We play similar positions. He’s going to be a sophomore. It’s a little different going against your brother who’s 190 pounds than it is going against Tristan Wirfs and AJ (Alaric Jackson) last year. But it’s been good to connect with him and just be around him and try to teach him what I can.”
Senior wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette is from Newark, N.J., where the coronavirus has made its mark with nearly 11,000 deaths. He’s stayed in Iowa City during quarantine, but has talked to family every day.
“I wasn’t too worried. I knew everyone in my family was going to follow the guidelines,” Smith-Marsette said. “I just stayed cool out here. I talk to my family on the phone. Talked with my mom and dad for 30 minutes yesterday. Just being able to talk with them, they keep me up to date on things. They always ask me if I need anything. It’s really cool, when you’re able to just talk and communicate. We know we’re doing well and that’s cool.”
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Are these guys eager to get back with their team? This is something that could happen as early as June 8. The Big Ten’s coronavirus task force meets June 7. Officially, Iowa is playing it by ear and waiting for the Big Ten to set the pace. Privately, Iowa expects a tiered return with maybe a first group of 70 players returning to workouts and then ramping up to the 105-man roster. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has mentioned a six-week buildup to the season.
“I can’t wait to get back with everybody, it’s going to feel good,” Smith-Marsette said. “It’ll be like a fresh first day at school, when you go back to school after being out for a long summer.”
There are still a mile of scenarios for the return of college football. What about no fans at games?
“A big part of playing at home is getting your fans into it,” said Golston, whose mom is a registered nurse and works at a nursing home back him in the Detroit area. “Not having that momentum, yeah, it’s a game but it kind of feels like a scrimmage. You have your 100 guys on you sideline and they have their 100 guys on theirs.
“It’s totally different. It’s not as loud, not as intense. You can’t really disrupt an offense with 100 guys.”
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