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As a Chicago suburbanite that was in high school during the great (or annoying, depending on who you asked) Illinois run, I’ll fully admit that I badly wanted to follow all my fellow high school bandwagon jumpers over to the Orange Krush. But, as I’m sure you could guess since you are here reading stories about how Iowa fans became Iowa fans, my heart already belonged to a school in a state they knew nothing about (outside of the corn).
Like many, my first experience “rooting” for the Hawkeyes just so happened to somewhat correlate with “The Catch”. I was at a childhood friend’s house in Naperville, Illinois. Both of his parents were from Iowa (his mother attended the University of Iowa and his father attended Iowa State). So as you could imagine, the house was divided on football Saturdays.
While I enjoyed college football growing up, my parents didn’t have any sort of affiliations, so I was an NCAA free agent. I followed the best players and tuned into whatever the prime games on ESPN and ABC were. That is until I got sick and tired of my friend and his borderline obsession with Seneca Wallace. I’m not embellishing when I tell you that at the peak of this love affair, he owned three Seneca Wallace jerseys and had them in a constant rotation. To top that, when Wallace finally made it to the league, he would trade him to whichever team he used to play me in Madden.
Who openly wanted to play with Seneca Wallace in MADDEN?
So, I did what all of us would do to their friend… I started rooting for his favorite player’s rival, just to bust his huevos.
Now, I didn’t know anything about Iowa whatsoever to start. I thought their jerseys were some of the cleanest in college football. But that was about it. As I started watching more intently, it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. I even found myself wanting and eventually buying a cheap white-on-white fitted Hawkeyes hat at Lids (Which still remains one of the biggest things a punk kid with no job could do to prove his allegiance. After all, the money I used to buy it with was my allowance money, and that usually went to video games and going to the movies with girls).
Looking back on it, it all was a pretty easy sell. Brad Banks was fun as hell, and after he left, I got to revel in Drew Tate and his free styling. There was just something about those two offenses, led by those two guys, that gave every backyard football Hall of Famer the chills.
It might not be your typical reason for becoming a fan, but in our friendship, siding with the Hawkeyes added fuel to our always continuous friendly rivalry. And at the end of the day, while it was a decision made in sheer antagonism, it turned out to lay the groundwork to what is now a lifelong passion.
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