Football is starting to look a lot different in the fall – from high school all the way up through some NFL teams announcing the absence of fans, at least to start. It started with high school football in Illinois, Kansas and Minnesota being moved to the spring – affecting the final seasons of a handful of Hawkeye recruits – and now has spread to the cancellation of the 2020 fall Big Ten season.
For those reeling from the news coming out of the conference this week, their plans are still widely up in the air, and could be until the effects trickle down all the way to the 2021 NFL Draft. However, high school athletes gearing up for a career at Iowa have had time to process their plans and how they’ll battle the next four months of the year without football.
“It wasn’t [really a surprise],” Jeremiah Pittman, a defensive tackle out of Saint Viator High School in Palatine, Ill. said. “I know some people were afraid that it wasn’t going to happen at all, but I never got that impression… Obviously it sucks but it was what had to happen, I’m just glad that we’re going to have a season at all.”
On July 29, the Illinois High School Association announced that it would be moving the high school football season to the spring. On Aug. 4, less than one week later, Minnesota followed suit, while neighboring states Iowa and Indiana have held their ground. Iowa, notably, just finished both high school baseball and softball seasons with COVID-19 protocols in place.
The main concern with the proximity in seasons, which has been heightened by the Big Ten’s plan to try and play in the spring, began with the high school sports and those Iowa recruits playing out their senior seasons so close to when they would report for fall camp.
“It’s not that big of a deal – the way they have the schedule tentatively right now, football would go as late as like May 3 or something,” Pittman said. “So, I wouldn’t get to Iowa until the second week in June, so I’d have like a week off and then I’d have four to five weeks to get back into the lifting regimen.”
Both Pittman and offensive guard Gennings Dunker from Lena, Ill. have been clear on their intentions to remain with their high school teammates until the end, and those plans haven’t changed now with the Big Ten’s possibility of a spring season.
For Dunker, it wasn’t even a question about what he would do when his high school football season got moved to spring.
“I’m definitely going to finish out my season,” Dunker said. “I don’t want to leave my high school coach hanging. I don’t want to leave my teammates hanging.”
In the meantime, athletes have to continue to stay in shape for when their respective seasons do come around. The offseason has essentially been lengthened an extra four months at least, and especially for those coming to Iowa in June, it’s important that they do keep up with their training.
Despite not having organized practices, for some that means still staying in touch with teammates and recreating the camaraderie and accountability on their own instead of under the watchful eye of a coaching staff.
“I guess it’s all about how you respond to it,” Dunker said. “So, I can see me and my teammates working out three or four days a week, eating right and getting bigger, stronger, faster – getting as fast as we can. I’m trying to take advantage of the extended offseason.”
In addition to Pittman and Dunker, Iowa verbal commitments in the ’21 Class David Davidkov (Winnetka, Ill. New Trier High), Justice Sullivan (Eden Prairie, Minn. High) and Arland Bruce IV (Olathe, Kan. North High) saw their fall seasons sidelined.