FanFest Sunday

Feb. 13, 2005

Andre Tippett remembers the summer of 1981 like it was yesterday. So, too, does Kirk Ferentz.

Iowa’s former all-American defensive end who earned all-Pro honors as a member of the New England Patriots and the 2004 Big Ten Conference coach of the year shared those memories in separate keynote addresses at the final session of the University of Iowa’s 2005 Iowa Football FanFest Sunday morning at the Sheraton Iowa City.

“The seniors agreed as a group to stay in Iowa City that summer and give something back, make a difference. We realized that we had an opportunity to do something special and by doing so, we could thank the fans that stuck with us,” said Tippett, who today is a member of the administrative staff for the three-time NFL-champion Patriots.

“I remember it was one of the very first days after Coach (Hayden) Fry had hired me,” Ferentz told the crowd of more than 350 that spent the weekend getting an inside look at the Hawkeye football program.

“There’s no `I’. It’s `team.’ They play hard. The play clean. They know their responsibilities and how to execute. They’re focused on the big things and the small things. They practice hard so that they can play hard.”

“The Iowa Hawkeyes are to college football what the New England Patriots are to the NFL.”

Former Hawkeye Andre Tippett

“I had been at the University of Pittsburgh, and Andre and Bruce Webb stopped by my office to see if I had any film on Pitt’s all-American defensive end. They wanted to study it. It was then that I realized, again, there was something special going on in Iowa City.”

As Hawk fans know, the rest is history. And, as Tippett said, it’s been going uphill ever since.

Tippett said at the top of his presentation that he still gets butterfies every time he lands at the Eastern Iowa Airport and makes the drive to Iowa City.

“I am what I am today thanks in great measure to my years at the University of Iowa,” he said, reflecting back on that first arrival 26 years ago.

Tippett told the FanFest participants that there’s no question there’s a lot of similarities between the Iowa Hawkeyes of 2005 and his beloved New England Patriots.

“There’s no `I’. It’s `team.’ They play hard. The play clean. They know their responsibilities and how to execute. They’re focused on the big things and the small things. They practice hard so that they can play hard,” he said.

He summed it up this way – much to the delight of the fans of Iowa football program in attendance – that “The Iowa Hawkeyes are to college football what the New England Patriots are to the NFL.

“We – and I say `we’ because once a Hawk, always a Hawk – are in very, very good hands here,” Tippett said with a glance toward Ferentz.

Tippett, who said he was honored to have the opportunity to speak to Ferentz’s squad the day earlier, said there’s real, tangible, evidence as to why the University of Iowa and its football program stands apart from the crowd.

“I’ve been gone more than two decades, but when I return I always feel welcome. The people, the place, is genuine, it’s real. Also, we’ve had only two coaches — Hayden and Kirk — run our football program in the two-plus decades since my departure. That fact alone speaks volumes about this institution and this football program,” he said.

Ferentz said Iowa’s 9-7 victory at Michigan in 1981 ranks among the very best he’s been involved in. Tippett and his defensive partners shut down a high-powered Wolverine running game that day and limited the home team to just the lone touchdown.

“That was our first big Big Ten victory. We’ve had a lot of big, important wins since, but it’s a pretty good argument to say that that was one of the biggest if not the biggest,” said Iowa’s head coach.

Ferentz spoke glowingly about his 2004 Hawkeyes, how they overcame everything thrown at them to persevere and achieve something the math doesn’t say is possible.

“I told Warrren the other day it’s a shame he doesn’t drink. He’d never have to buy another one in the state of Iowa. He just laughed, but, again, how deserving … how fitting.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

“I haven’t looked it up, but I don’t think there’s been many Big Ten championships won by a team that ranked dead last in the country in rushing,” Ferentz said with a smile.

He looked back fondly at the Arizona State game. Yes, fondly.

“I can’t remember for certain, but I’m not sure we won even the coin toss that night,” he said. “But, the next day, when faced with the difficult decision of which way to take the season, the players elected to take it the right way.”

Ferentz said the 2004 Hawkeye did three things that were the difference between a third straight New Year’s Day bowl game and Top 10 finish, and disappointment.

First, he said, they never gave up. Second, they found different ways to win. And, third, they took it one step at a time.

“Early, I think we were all maybe thinking too much big picture,” said Ferentz. “However, after the ASU game, it was a one-game-at-a-time approach and it needed to be.”

Ferentz said Iowa was the underdog in six of the eight games it won to close the season and deservedly so. “Michigan State looked like the New England Patriots,” he laughed. “But, each week, the staff put together a plan and the players executed.”

Ferentz talked about the recent accomplishments and said it was good to see some additions to the walls in the Hawkeye football complex.

“We had a little drought in there,” he said. “It nice that we’ve been able to tack a few more photographs up for everyone to enjoy.”

The numbers are impressive. Two Big Ten titles, three January 1 bowl games, three Top 10 finishes, 10 all-Americans, four national award winners and 42 of 46 seniors over the last three season who had a “chance to chase their dream of playing in the NFL.”

And, then there’s the story of Warren Holloway – he of “The Catch.”

“I didn’t know until reading the newspapers that that was Warren’s first touchdown as a Hawkeye. How fitting … how deserving,” said Ferentz.

“He was one of those guys that was one of those guys. The coaches knew how hard he had worked for five years, but few others did. He kind of took off the last two seasons and it’s because he was the last guy to leave the field after practice, he made that commitment to be the best he could be for himself and for the team,” Ferentz said.

“I told Warrren the other day it’s a shame he doesn’t drink. He’d never have to buy another one in the state of Iowa. He just laughed, but, again, how deserving … how fitting.”