CEDAR RAPIDS — He’s on the left side. Now he’s on the right.
He’s on the inside. Now he’s on the outside.
Now he’s kneeling.
Let’s talk about that last thing first. Iowa’s Mark Kallenberger took a knee for the national anthem before the Hawkeyes’ two home games at Kinnick Stadium so far this season in order to help bring awareness to racial injustice.
He has been among a group of roughly 30 players to do so.
“One of my roommates is Mekhi Sargent,” said Kallenberger, adding he also lives with Keontae Luckett and Yahweh Jeudy, who, like Sargent, are Black. “I’ve seen some stuff from those guys. Things aren’t right in the moment right now. I have someone back home from Davenport ... he’s a really good family friend of ours, he’s like a brother to me. He grew up in kind of a crappy area, and we kind of brought him along into our family. So it’s guys like that, where I’ve seen them struggle so much throughout the years, that I take it upon myself to take a knee.”
The junior offensive lineman from Bettendorf said he talked to another friend, serving in Iraq, about whether it was appropriate to kneel. His friend said to go for it.
A tumultuous offseason, of course, included an independent investigation into alleged racial disparity within the Iowa program. Changes have been made for the good, if you talk to players, and that includes being allowed to kneel for the anthem.
“We all have to be more approachable,” Kallenberger said. “We have to get to know our teammates a lot better than we are right now. We have to come together as one. We need to be more cohesive.”
It has been tough for Iowa’s offensive line to become cohesive so far this season because it has had to go through change. Two starters from the first two games are out, which has moved Kallenberger from a backup guard position to starting right tackle.
Iowa plays Friday night at Minnesota (6:05 kickoff, FS1).
“Yeah, it’s kind of representative of the way the things have been the last two years,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “We have had a lot of movement with our offensive line, (and) that’s continued. I thought he did a really nice job the other day stepping in ... Some guys have that ability, some don’t. We’ve moved him around basically everywhere but center. It doesn’t seem to affect him an awful lot.”
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Kallenberger redshirted in 2017 and played in four games the following season. He played every game last season, starting four times at right guard and once at left guard.
That start at left guard was against USC in Holiday Bowl.
“I’ve just been trying to work on my technique every day, whether it be run blocking or pass blocking,” Kallenberger said. “There is always something that can be worked on, there is always more stuff that can be built on, just to try and make myself as good of a player as I can. Obviously I have switched from guard to tackle, left side (to) right side, so I’m just trying to bring a better mental focus to practice and games. Just really being locked in because I am flipping from side to side.”
Iowa rushed for 226 yards last week in a blowout win over Michigan State, so the dudes up front were doing work. With Kallenberger, those dudes were left tackle Alaric Jackson, left guard Cody Ince, center Tyler Linderbaum and right guard Cole Banwart.
Kallenberger said an increased belief in himself has helped him take his blocking game up a couple of notches from where it had been.
“I just wasn’t confident in my game, really,” he said. “It came down to me getting some reps and winning some reps. Focusing more in practice, really trusting myself out there. That’s where all my confidence came from the Holiday Bowl. Preparing (better) in practice and having the confidence to succeed.”
“He could still end up playing some guard for us or even left tackle, whatever,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully not. Hopefully we just get through the (Minnesota) game with the five guys playing. But that’s a real credit to him ... Mark came in and worked hard, and with each year, he’s grown, and finished up last year playing in the bowl game, did a nice job at left guard for us. So we came into this year with high hopes that hopefully his best football was in front of him, and this year and next year would be really good years for him.”
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