By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Parker Hesse and Sam Brincks ended their high school football careers on the same field, in different uniforms.
Five years and one day later, they said goodbye to Kinnick Stadium as teammates.
“Five years ago we played against each other,” Hesse said. “I was just getting to know him. Now he’s one of my best friends on the team. He’ll never get credit for all he has done for this program, the type of guy he is in the locker room, the type of leader he is. He’s a tremendous person.”
Brincks and Hesse have been roommates for the past four years. They have been united through the blood, sweat, and commitment it takes to play Big Ten Conference football.
“The guys next to you, that’s what it’s all about,” Brincks said.
On Nov. 22, 2013, Brincks and his top-ranked Carroll Kuemper team beat Hesse’s fourth-ranked Waukon team, 31-28, for the State Class 2A title at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Kuemper won when Adam Schleisman kicked a 39-yard walk-off field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through.
Brincks, who tipped the scales at 230 pounds then, played offensive tackle and defensive end. Hesse, listed at 210 pounds, played quarterback and linebacker. Hesse threw 41 times in that game. He had three touchdown passes, and ran for another, but he also threw an interception in the final minute that led to the winning field goal.
Hesse came to Iowa as a linebacker. Brincks arrived as a walk-on with no promises. In their final game at Kinnick last Saturday — a 31-28 Hy-Vee Heroes Game victory against Nebraska — they started together on the defensive line: Hesse, a 261-pound defensive end, and Brincks a 275-pound defensive tackle.
“A dream come true,” Brincks said. “I feel lucky. I had a lot of guys to look up to.”
This time, they shared the elation of a walk-off field goal.
Brincks blocks on kicks. As soon as Recinos put his foot into the winning field goal, Sam looked up, raised both arms into the air and got emotional.
While his teammates ran after Recinos, and then sprinted to the north end zone to collect the Heroes Trophy, Brincks stopped in his tracks.
“I just paused,” Brincks said. “I wanted to look around. It was pretty emotional, coming off for the last time.”
Tears were part of the goodbye.
“You invest a lot,” Brincks said. “When you end it on that note, it feels special. I tried to soak it all in.”
Hesse was moved from linebacker to defensive end in Dec. of 2014, during Iowa’s bowl preparation for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
“It wasn’t something I expected,” Hesse said. “But when coach (Kirk) Ferentz told me about the change, obviously he’s tremendous at what he does. He has been doing it a long time, and I had the ultimate faith in him that I could do it. His belief in me helped me make the transition.”
Hesse was thrown into the fire as a redshirt freshman when Drew Ott injured an elbow in the second game of the 2015 season at Iowa State and then was lost for the year when he tore the ACL in his right knee in the sixth game against Illinois.
“He got thrown in before he was ready four years ago,” Ferentz said. “He went out and competed as hard as he could in that (Big Ten) championship game, and played against a first-round draft pick (Michigan State’s Jack Conklin). He fought hard, and gave us a chance to win. He is a tremendous young guy and what a leader he is, in his own quiet way.”
Brincks, who emerged at defensive end last season, was moved inside this year.
“Sam has a good attitude, shows up every day on time, and works hard,” Ferentz said. “Last year he played pretty good football for us. It was during the spring where we saw this guy being a little better than we thought he was.
“He ended up earning a starting job. He has done a good job as a football player, but he’s an unbelievable person, a great leader, draws other people in, that type of deal.”
Hesse and Brincks have one more game together in an Iowa uniform, in a bowl game that will be announced Sunday.
“I would love to win the next one,” Brincks said. “That would make it even better. But the walk-off winner was pretty nice.”
Hesse said the most rewarding part of his career is the people he shared his five-year journey with.
“That’s what makes football so special, and team sports so special,” Hesse said. “All the challenges, all the success you get to share with people who care about you and you care about them. That’s what I’m going to remember most.”
One more game, and it’s all over.
“It went so fast,” Hesse said. “I can’t believe it.”