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“Iowan by birth, Hawkeye by the grace of God.” Truer words, my friends, truer words. Like many of you, I grew up in Iowa. And that means I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Actually, I grew up about 5 miles outside of a small town about an hour from nowhere. Yeah, Iowa. And as terrible as that may sound to some, it just so happened that it was in the eastern half of this great state. My dad was from Illinois and my mom didn’t care at all about sports. But, by that grace of God I mentioned, my dad managed to not be an Illini fan. Yeah, he’s a good dude. And being that I was born in the late ‘80s, I came into a world where Iowa football and basketball were in a pretty good place. My dad slowly attached his allegiance to Iowa and so I followed.
I’ll admit it freely, it was a loose allegiance in the early days. I was just a kid and there were rough periods. There were some losing seasons, banana peel jerseys and coaching transitions. But from the moment I stepped on campus for the first time as a young kid tagging along with a buddy and his family, there was no going back. Playing catch at a tailgate and walking into Kinnick for the first time sealed the deal. I didn’t know I would go to the University of Iowa, but I knew I would never root for anyone else.
That was followed by summer basketball camps on campus with this slick new head basketball coach who seemed like he was taking the program places. He was kind of a d*ck at camp, but the players were great and actually staying in a dorm room was one of the coolest experiences a pre-teen could have. Dorm food. College girls. Basketball. I was sold even more than I had been as a young kid.
You follow that up with the spectacular success of the early 2000s Kirk Ferentz brought, with the excitement of a guy like Brad Banks and some of those Hawkeye greats right as I was hitting high school and it was a match made in heaven. My fandom grew from something loose and casual to a passion and eventually an obsession.
Like most here, I can tell you exactly where I was and how I felt when Iowa lost to Iowa State in 2002. I have vivid memories of standing (when you progress from fan to fanatic, you stop sitting during games and stand a few feet from the TV so everything is nice and close at eye level) in my parents basement, my dad beside me, as we watched Tate to Holloway. I’ll never forget walking out of an exam at my small liberal arts college and sprinting across campus to catch the end of the 2006 NCAA tournament game against some no-name school from Louisiana, only to be stopped dead in my tracks as my roommate came busting out of the dorm screaming profanities (why does that shot ALWAYS go in?).
I still get chills thinking about finally making the decision to leave the small college and come to Iowa City to finish school (shouts to the then girlfriend, now Mrs. PinIC for helping push me that direction). I will always remember rushing the field with my buddy, a Notre Dame fan who had been roped into attending his first Iowa game, when Daniel Murray hit the field goal to take down #3 Penn State in 2008 and hearing him tell me he’ll always be an Iowa fan too. And I remember thinking I was going to go through the floor of my apartment as I jumped up and down watching Adrian Clayborn rumble into the end zone at Penn State in 2009.
The list of memories goes on and on. The athletics programs at the University of Iowa have brought me so much joy, and heartache, over the years. It’s my alma mater. It’s my team. It’s my passion. That’s why I’m a Hawkeye.
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