By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s the time of year to make a list and check it (at least) twice.
For University of Iowa football, it’s the time of year for bowl travel, something the Hawkeyes have done 16 times in the last 18 seasons. Football equipment manager Greg Morris has been through this routine several times, but there is still a lot of organization and preparation that goes into dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s associated with postseason travel.
“Experience is what you need to make it go,” Morris said.
He leans on equipment manager Kevin Foor, assistant Kelly Koch, and a group of student-managers Morris calls “the best crew in the land.”
“You rely on your experience to help you get to where you’re going, but we have good, intelligent hands helping us,” Morris said. “My hat is off to those kids. They’re the backbone of what we do. Kevin and I couldn’t load that semi by ourselves, absolutely not. No way. No way.”
There are decisions as to what equipment to load into the 48-foot trailer and when to load it. After all, when the semi leaves Dec. 21 for Tampa, Florida, the Hawkeyes still practice at home in the Indoor Football Practice Facility.
“We have to try to send what equipment we need for a normal game week for practice in Tampa while leaving enough stuff here,” said senior student-manager Andrew Schnoebelen. “There is a lot of compromise involved with coaches, trying to make do with what we have here and down there.”
Approximately 45,000 pounds of equipment, training room supplies, and personal luggage is packed tightly into the trailer for two days leading up to the semi’s departure. There is a method to the packing.
“It’s important to load the trailer a certain way,” Schnoebelen said. “Practice stuff in one area, hotel stuff in one area, and stadium stuff in one area, so when you’re unloading it’s all together.”
Spoken like a true Morris protégé.
While there is an order for packing, the crew of Hawkeyes also pays attention to weight distribution.
“We have to make sure the weight is even (in the trailer), so when we pull out (Dec. 21), they don’t get to the first weigh station and have problems.” Morris said.
After two days of packing, a semi-tractor and driver Mike Riggan arrive at the Richard O. Hansen Football Operations Building. He backs the tractor up and latches onto the bloated moving and storage trailer.
Riggan, founder of TanTara Transportation in Muscatine, Iowa, will make the haul solo. He will be behind the wheel of a 2007 W900 Kenworth with 108,000 miles — it’s only assignment for 12 years has been to transport University of Iowa football gear. The license plates read HAWKONE.
“Our family bleeds the black and gold, that’s why we do this,” said Riggan, before embarking on a 24-plus hour road trip.
The contents of Hawk One include everything needed for a week of football operations in a destination 1,200 miles from Kinnick Stadium.
Another advantage the Hawkeyes have is familiarity with the Outback Bowl (their sixth trip in 16 seasons), the practice facility (University of Tampa), and the team hotel (Westin Tampa Waterside).
Iowa (8-4) plays No. 18 Mississippi State (8-4) on Jan. 1 with kickoff at 11 a.m. (CT) inside Raymond James Stadium. When the game concludes, the loading process begins again. After a return drive to Iowa City, Hawk One will be unloaded Friday, Jan. 4. Following three more days of reorganization inside the football equipment room, it will finally be time for some deserved rest and relaxation.
“By (Jan. 9) we should have everything tidied up and put away to the point where I’m comfortable,” Morris said. “Then I will take a little time off.”