Ah, Life as a Walk-On

Dec. 13, 2003

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Struggling in practices and pushing a very experienced Iowa squad to new levels seems to be a thankless job – all the work and hardly any of the glory. But the two members of the Hawkeye squad who are charged with just that would disagree.

The two walk-ons on for the Hawkeyes are the definition of team players.

“I don’t think it’s a thankless job,” said Jack Brownlee, a native of Fort Dodge, Iowa. “I just think it’s an honor to be on this team. I’ll just do whatever I can to make this team better.”

“Both of us are in practices to push people,” said Kurt Spurgeon. “Whenever the time comes to play, we have to be ready to help the team out.”

“I don’t think it’s a thankless job. I just think it’s an honor to be on this team. I’ll just do whatever I can to make this team better.”
Iowa’s Jack Brownlee

Brownlee had an outrageously successful career at St. Edmond High School, being named the Class 2A Player of the Year and first team all-state by the Iowa Newspaper Association his senior year. He averaged 24 points, nine assists and four rebounds per game that year and led his team to the Class 2A state championship.

He then attended Kirkwood Community College and averaged 12 points, five assists and three rebounds his last year there, while the team just missed advancing to the national tournament.

Now at Iowa after taking a redshirt last year, Brownlee joins Spurgeon as a walk-on to the most experienced team the Hawkeyes have fielded in five years.

“I think my role is the same as it’s always been,” the junior communications major said. “I push the guys in practice and try to get them better. If my time comes, it comes; otherwise, I can motivate them from the benches or in practices.”

This season, Brownlee has already seen action – playing five minutes and grabbing two boards in the opening 107-80 defeat of the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

Spurgeon, on the other hand, didn’t have the luxury of a redshirt and will be participating in his final season with the Hawkeyes this year.

The 6-foot-5 business major’s career started in DeWitt, Iowa, playing for Central High School, where he earned first team all-conference honors all four years. He averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game as a senior.

Spurgeon then attended Tyler (Texas) Community College, where he earned conference academic all-America honors before going to Southwest Missouri State University, where he was recruited by Coach Steve Alford.

Last season, his first for the Hawkeyes, Spurgeon played in 14 games, including a key role in Iowa’s comeback victory against Ohio State in February, scoring two points and a career-best two rebounds.

Now entering his last season in competitive basketball, Spurgeon is poised to play better than he has in the past, although he faces the toughest competition yet in practices.

“I think I had a good summer,” he said. “I think I’m playing better than I was last year.”

But Spurgeon is aware that his competition at forward includes classmate Glen Worley and sophomore Greg Brunner.

“I think I might expect less playing time,” Spurgeon said. “We have so much more depth this year. It makes practices more competitive and you have to fight for more minutes.”

However, the work of a walk-on isn’t all toil and sweat.

Both Brownlee and Spurgeon made the summer tour to Australia in August, playing against four professional teams on the continent.

“It was a great experience,” said Spurgeon. “I don’t know if I’m going to have another chance to go to Australia.”

And ever thinking of the team, Brownlee concurred.

“It went real well,” he said. “I think it’ll show up in our play this year.”