Hawkeyes Give Back

April 17, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

(photo by Darren Miller, HawkeyeSports.com)

Some people don’t think I can be objective when it comes to the topic of Kirk Ferentz.

While I have disagreed with some game related aspects through the years, it’s been next to impossible to find anything worthy of criticism off the field.

The people in this program care and give back far more than any of us knows.

I have received countless emails through the Ferentz era and have had several conversations with people who have told me how either Ferentz, his staff members, the players or a combination of the above have impacted their lives.

On Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, I witnessed a level of giving back that left me emotional after the day was done.

The coaching staff was made aware of a local family that has had a tough spring. They lost a wife and mother under horrific circumstances not too long ago.

The Iowa football program invited these three individuals to be their guests at Saturday’s open practice and the family experienced a level of caring and giving back that will never leave them.

I was able to witness every gesture, every kindness and every smile first hand, as I have known this family dating back to the early 1980’s and was with them on Saturday.

The father is a lifelong friend of mine and his two young children are now the same age the father and I were when we became friends.

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Chic Ejiasi (Director of Player Development and a former Hawkeye) met the family before the open practice and gave them a complete tour of the practice facilities. The children were able to meet Tony Moeaki who is back in town training with Chris Doyle. After making our way over to the football field, the children were able to stand on the field and watch the practice. Chic pulled several players over to meet the family, including Marvin McNutt who spent some time talking with them, as did Jeff Tarpinian. Gary Barta spent some time with them..even Sheriff Ron Stewart spent some time with them.

They were able to meet and have their pictures taken with former Hawkeye Chad Greenway who gave them a few minutes…and when practice was over, Ejiasi told the family that Coach Ferentz wanted to meet them.

Kirk stopped and chatted with them for several minutes and took a photo with them before going on to who knows how many other obligations and responsibilities he had in front of him on that day.

Two or three minutes might not seem like much, but when you take into consideration how many times they do that during the course of a day, it adds up quickly…it’s just two or three minutes for one person or family, but it’s non stop giving back for those involved in the program, who also have a job to do.

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There were several recruits and their families in town this weekend as well as several incoming freshmen and their families. Ejiasi spent some time with them too, but he was always aware of where my friend and his children were, making sure they were enjoying their day. Chic Ejiasi could not have been more gracious or more accommodating.  He made sure this family had seen all they could see before he went to spend time with his own family, as his parents met up with us after practice was over.  They had never seen Chic’s office and he was going to show them but he made sure the children were taken care of first.

When the day was finished and I shook my friend’s hand, the look in his eyes and the grip in his hand told me all I needed to know about how much they enjoyed their day.

Later, he sent me an email, telling me how much his kids opened up on the car ride home and how excited they were from what they had just experienced, each of them telling their father it was “one of the best days of their lives.”

Considering the darkness they have had to deal with as of late and the ramifications they will continue to deal with for a long, long time to come, seeing what the Iowa football program did for three people on a cold and dreary work day touched me in a very, very personal way…this type of personal caring, this kind of giving to the community happens nearly every day in some way, shape or form from this football program as well as throughout the entire athletic department.

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The photo atop this item comes from this photo gallery, and was a part of the Iowa football program’s ‘Day of Caring’ activities, where they went out and cleaned up an area of the community. Before anyone scoffs at a photo opp, the program rarely has their photographer with them when doing good deeds.

They don’t send a photog over to University Hospitals when the players make their regular visits to brighten the day of Iowa fans who are in poor health. They don’t send cameras in when players and coaches visit the cancer recovery wings. They don’t have a webcam watching Kirk Ferentz returns scores of letters a month in handwritten fashion.

Iowa football gives back and the overwhelming majority of the time, they do it away from the spotlight which is always a good indicator of the sincerity of the act.

So when people try to paint the program and those involved in it as folks that don’t care about the health of their players, or that they are just some kind of football factory only concerned with winning games at all costs, I have bristled a bit as such notions.

After personally experiencing the level to which they give back on a regular basis, I will be even more vigilant in taking on opinions that tries to do that in the future, because that’s just not the reality of what this program, and the people in it, is about.

The Iowa football program regularly talks about how they are a family. I can personally attest to the validity of this statement, and this family is most certainly an extended one.

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