Sept. 10, 2010
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Take the Hawkeyes with You: Iowa Podcasts
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- Iowa Football wallpaper
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Playing in the National Football League was the first thing on 17-year old Leven Weiss’s mind when he entered the University of Iowa from inner-city Detroit in 1976. Thirty-four years later, it is a law degree that advanced Weiss in life more than his football prowess.
Yet, the lessons he learned from being a Hawkeye student-athlete resonate with Weiss still.
“I got through law school not because I was the sharpest knife in the drawer, it was because of the experience I had in football,” Weiss said. “Learning that toughness, commitment, intensity and discipline are things that are transferable to any areas of life.”
Weiss is now senior manager for civic and community relations at Chrysler in Auburn Hills, Mich. He was in Iowa City mid-August to watch a few practices and address the football team. Weiss was honorary captain last season during a 42-24 victory against Indiana on Oct. 31.
“Some football teams are teams, then there are some football teams that are family,” Weiss said. “The Hawkeyes are an organization that is clearly a family — one that transcends that of a team. Later in life they will see, because those bonds are a lot greater than those of a team.”
Recruited by Dennis Green and Silas McKinney, Weiss played outside linebacker for UI head coach Bob Commings from 1976-78 and middle linebacker for Hayden Fry in 1979. He was a senior when Fry became head coach and the adjustment to a new boss and a fresh philosophy was not easy.
“You couldn’t show me anything or tell me anything,” Weiss said. “I was trying to knock the hell out of people on a regular basis. When Hayden came, it was the old bull and the young bull type of thing, so that was a challenge.”
The Hawkeyes finished 5-6 in 1979 and two years later began a string of eight consecutive winning seasons.
Weiss did not play for or coach with current Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz, but he considers himself a `Ferentz disciple.’
“Some football teams are teams, then there are some football teams that are family. The Hawkeyes are an organization that is clearly a family — one that transcends that of a team. Later in life they will see, because those bonds are a lot greater than those of a team.”
UI alumnus Leven Weiss
“I embrace what he stands for as far as developing a culture and focusing on these boys and developing them into men,” Weiss said. “They leave as men because coach Ferentz focuses on them as a total package, not just as a football player. Success is greater than a won-loss record in Kirk’s mind; that’s important to me because these are young lives and they are our future.”
It is not uncommon for former Hawkeyes to return and attend football practice. What Ferentz enjoyed about Weiss’s latest visit was that he stayed three days, interacting with the players at practice and in the cafeteria, before addressing the group.
“I think Leven enjoyed it, but it was better for our team,” Ferentz said. “Here’s a guy who played at Iowa, he’s had great professional success as an attorney and his message is a life message, not football. It was about looking down the road in years ahead and how this activity impacts that.”
After leading the team and conference with 112 tackles in 1979, Weiss earned all-Big Ten recognition and went to camp with the Minnesota Vikings. He was the final cut, and instead of wallowing in the fledgling United States Football League, Weiss opted for law school.
“It was a question of whether I was going to live in the now or prepare for tomorrow,” Weiss said. “I made the decision that I gave football my best shot and rather than spinning around the league trying, trying and trying, I’m going to prepare for something I’m going to have the rest of my life.”
Weiss has been a lawyer for 28 years, working two years at Dow Chemical before returning to Detroit with a position at Chrysler.
Weiss calls the “real highlights” of his experience with the University of Iowa as returning in the winter of 1989 as keynote speaker for the College of Business Administration Convocation and serving nearly 10 years as Iowa’s representative to the Big Ten Advisory Board.
“The business school thought a lot of that because I was able to cite the experience I had here and all the people who helped me,” Weiss said. “I am a lawyer now because of the support I got here.”
“In my mind, success is having a good family, living a clean life and contributing to society. I think I’ve done that. I’m active in youth organizations in Detroit, I’m happy that I’m educating my children and I try to live a responsible life.”
UI alumnus Leven Weiss
Weiss, 53, still wears his I-ring and his workout room at home is painted black and gold with autographed “wall of fame” photos of Ferentz, Andre Tippett, Bob Stoops and others.
“Guys I either played with or that I know through coaching,” Weiss said. “These are the proud moments of my past.”
Weiss stays connected with the Big Ten Conference: “My blood’s clearly black and gold” he says, but his two daughters attend Michigan and Michigan State.
“I have bragging rights because we got the sweep last year,” Weiss said with a laugh. “They know where I stand.”
In 2009, the Hawkeyes defeated Michigan 30-28 on Oct. 10 for Homecoming and scored on the game’s last play to down Michigan State 15-13 on Oct. 24 in East Lansing.
As Weiss inches closer to retirement, he reflects on the meaning of achievement.
“In my mind, success is having a good family, living a clean life and contributing to society,” Weiss said. “I think I’ve done that. I’m active in youth organizations in Detroit, I’m happy that I’m educating my children and I try to live a responsible life.”