Nov. 22, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz is a fan of the Heroes Game theme: recognizing those who do great things without much publicity.
That’s why he targeted former Hawkeye defensive lineman Matt Kroul for honorary captain on Friday for the second annual Heroes Game against Nebraska.
“I had Matt in mind for this day for quite a while and for a lot of reasons,” Ferentz said, following a Thanksgiving Day walk-through inside the indoor practice facility. “They recognize people who are not in the news all the time, but they are really doing good things. The way I will tie that in with Matt — he didn’t win the Outland Trophy, he wasn’t a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”
Kroul started 50 consecutive games from 2005-08, and after participating on UI teams that finished with records of 7-5, 6-7, and 6-6, he was a fulltime captain for the 2008 season, when the Hawkeyes went 9-4 and pummeled South Carolina, 31-10, in the 2009 Outback Bowl.
“That ’08 team was a huge step for our program and it wasn’t easy,” Ferentz said. “We started 3-3, and then dug in and went to work. That is one of the most rewarding seasons any of us have gone through. It was a heck of a football team and it’s no coincidence Matt was a captain on that football team.”
“I had Matt in mind for this day for quite a while and for a lot of reasons. They recognize people who are not in the news all the time, but they are really doing good things. The way I will tie that in with Matt — he didn’t win the Outland Trophy, he wasn’t a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”
UI head football coach
Kroul told the Hawkeyes that in order to be great, you have to sacrifice. He told them not to look back on their careers with regret. And he brought up his final game in Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 15, 2008.
“I don’t even remember who we played, but I remember looking around and thinking how awesome this experience is,” Kroul said.
Iowa defeated Purdue, 22-17, that day and followed with a win at Minnesota (55-0) before the Outback Bowl.
“Hard work solves a lot of things in life,” said Kroul, living proof of that statement.
In 2007 — Kroul’s junior season — the Hawkeyes missed a bowl game when they lost to Western Michigan, 28-19, at home in the season-finale. In part because of leadership from Kroul, Iowa rebounded the next season and used a 24-23 win over No. 3 Penn State as a springboard to four straight wins to end the season.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Kroul said of the current group of Hawkeyes. “This program isn’t off track by any means. This is the game of football, there are so many close games in a season and things happen in a season with injuries. Stay on track, work hard every day, buy into what coach is saying, do whatever (strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle tells you to do in the offseason, show up on time and be ready to work.”
Kroul was also a standout representative of the Hawkeye program off the field. As a senior, he was a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s Draddy Trophy, one of the highest forms of recognition for both on and off-the-field accomplishments. Kroul earned academic All-Big Ten recognition four straight years and was a member of Iowa’s Leadership Group for four seasons.
As a senior, Kroul earned the Hayden Fry Award for defense, the Iron Hawk Award, and the Win During the Week Award, while also being named Iowa’s recipient of the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award.
Kroul signed an NFL free agent contract with the New York Jets following the 2009 NFL Draft, and has played in the NFL as both a defensive and offensive lineman.
Kroul will accompany the Iowa captains to midfield for Friday’s pregame coin toss. He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game, and on the sideline during the contest.
To watch an interview with Kroul, click HERE.