Note: This story was originally published on July 4th, 2017. We would have written something new, but it’s a holiday and it’s all still true.
Today is the Fourth of July. Independence Day. A day when patriotism is at peak levels across the country. Well, except in Iowa. Not because Iowans aren’t patriotic or aren’t out celebrating America, but because Iowans, and Hawkeyes in particular, are always patriotic. Sure, it’s great to celebrate our nation’s birth, but we don’t need a holiday to show off our love for this country. We do it all the time!
So, in honor of this great nation’s birthday, we are recapping the top 4 All-American moments of the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa, where the Hawkeyes demonstrated their love of these United States.
#4: The Patriotic Card Stunt
The Date: November 5, 2011
The Occasion: Veteran’s Day
Some of you may recall a craze that was sweeping the nation back in 2011: card stunts. No, not playing cards or flash cards. I’m talking the giant paper cards placed on the seats of stadiums that when held up made a picture from above. Most of them were pretty basic. Maybe a section of the stadium would have cards in the same color and spell out something simple like “Go TEAM NAME” or “United We Stand.” Occasionally, you’d get some more intricate ones where more than one color was used or an actual design -gasp- such as a flag were created in a section.
Not at Iowa. No, despite some of the notorious blunders (anybody recall entire sections - notably visiting sections full of Wisconsin fans - getting red pom poms to go with the white and blue ones in other sections?), the athletic department pulled off a glorious display that featured two card stunts in 2011. One was a black and gold combination of “Go Hawks” and the signature “America Needs Farmers,” with the other honoring this great country:
Well done, Hawkeye fans. Well done.
#3: Veteran’s Day Traditions Merge
The Date: Multiple
The Occasion: Veteran’s Day
Over the years, Iowa has taken a number of different ideas and slowly merged them together. In 2010, Herky introduced us all to a new Halloween costume: Captain America Herky.
This is Iowa, so it was a hit. And in true Iowa fashion, when we find something we like, we just do it over and over. Like running the football on first down or drinking beer before we get to heaven. So naturally, Captain America Herky stopped just showing up for Halloween and now makes an appearance for Veteran’s Day.
Similarly, when Kirk Ferentz went rogue and allowed a new, one game change-up on the classic Iowa uniforms in 2011, the fans ate it up. And so now, we have the American flag tigerhawk as a Veteran’s day staple on the side of Hawkeye helmets.
And then there’s the flags. So many flags. All different shapes and sizes.
Ones shaped like America.
Iowa loves America. And we aren’t afraid to show it. In a variety of ways.
#2: Hawkeyes “Aim High... Fly, Fight, Win” While the Air Force Flies Low
The Date: November 20, 2010
The Occasion: The Ohio State University in Town
One of the great traditions in all of sports is the Air Force flyover. I mean, it’s an exhilarating experience. Massive fighter jets roaring overhead at speeds that would make Ricky Bobby nervous. All timed perfectly to the playing of the national anthem. If you’ve never witnessed one, it truly is an adrenaline rush.
I think it really energizes people due to the sheer show of power and speed. When the jets fly overhead, you can literally feel them, even if it’s a cloud-covered day and you can’t see them. And the roar is thunderous. But a cloud-covered day it was not on November 20th, 2010 at Iowa hosted Ohio State. At least not in any way that would matter when the Hawkeyes received perhaps the greatest fly-over in history when the pilots ignored the Air Force motto of “Aim High... Fly, Fight, Win” and flew as low as humanly possible.
For those of us in the stands that day, it truly felt like the jets were right on top of us. It was incredible. It was perfectly timed to the anthem the planes were ridiculously low. Have another look with slo-mo:
America. F yeah.
#1: A True American Hero is Born
The Date: January 5, 2010
The Occasion: Orange Bowl Victory
Iowa has always been a patriotic place. Hawkeyes love America and the University of Iowa has always done a decent job of celebrating this country at historic Kinnick Stadium. But you’ll notice all the other entries here occur in 2010 or later. And if you’re a true Iowa fan, you know why.
Despite the burgeoning patriotism in this great state, we needed a leader to push us to really embrace it. We needed someone we could stand behind and believe in. Enter the true American Hero: Ricky Stanzi.
You all know the circumstances. Iowa had just capped off an incredible season, finishing 10-2. They may have gone 11-1 or (gasp) 12-0 had Stanzi not had his leg removed from his body on a naked bootleg against Northwestern. But the Americanzi managed to come back from the injury in time to lead the Hawkeyes to a 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the BCS Orange Bowl. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ricky Stanzi. Iowa. America. If you don’t love it, leave it.
2019 BONUS: The Ultimate Patriot
The Date: Every Iowa Home Game
The Occasion: Recognizing a Hero
The Iowa Hawkeyes are built on traditions. Back in Black. In Heaven There is No Beer. Outside zone to the boundary. But perhaps no tradition is better than the one honoring Iowa’s only Heisman Trophy winner and human embodiment of a patriot.
Before each game in Kinnick Stadium, Hawkeye fans get to relive the glory of the stadium’s namesake accepting the Heisman. True to form, the speech focuses less on Nile Kinnick and more on his coaches, teammates and how grateful the all-star is to be playing football instead of at war Inc Europe.
It’s a bit ominous and many a fan will get chills before each game knowing the Hawkeye great would later lose his life while serving his country. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and one Kinnick seemed honored to make. He was and always will be the ultimate patriot.
Happy Independence Day, America. In heaven there is no beer, and in Iowa there are now fireworks. Enjoy responsibly.