By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa football got better today.
Monday’s tweet was one of the first by University of Iowa senior kicker Keith Duncan in more than four years and he had plenty of characters to spare.
He didn’t need extra verbiage.
In fact, from the insightful revelations Friday at a news conference on the Kenyon Outdoor Football Practice Facility, it sounds like Duncan could have posted a similar message Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
“[Monday’s team meeting] was a great opportunity for everyone to speak their mind and now that we have that at the core, it’s time to move forward,” Duncan said. “Coaches were honest, players were honest, it was extremely hard to describe the emotions and words that happened Monday and Tuesday.”
Practice for the Hawkeye veterans was set to begin Monday, but instead of working on strength and conditioning, the coaches, staff, and players held meetings. They were so raw, powerful, and productive that the Hawkeyes did the same Tuesday.
"We can tell there’s a clear difference between how it is now and how it was then. We’re excited about what we have to come, we’re excited to build relations, not only with our other teammates, but with our coaches, fans, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to create something big this year.”Ivory Kelly-Martin, junior running back
“We’re a very tight group — it’s a family, it really is,” Duncan said. “We’re all excited to push forward and see what we can do.”
Duncan was joined at Friday’s 45-minute news conference by head coach Kirk Ferentz, junior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin and sophomore defensive back Kaevon Merriweather. Duncan and Kelly-Martin are two of 21 Hawkeyes named to the team’s 2020 Leadership Group.
The veteran Iowa players wrapped up their first week of voluntary workouts Friday. For the second time in less than a week, Ferentz publicly addressed comments by former players, calling their accounts “serious and troubling.”
“It has given all of us a better and deeper understanding of what racism and bias is, and it has begun initiative for real change,” Ferentz said. “As a team and as a program we have a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity at this moment to lead the change and set a new, higher standard for collegiate football.”
Merriweather was one of the first Hawkeyes to voice his opinion on social media once the Iowa football program lifted its student-athlete ban on Twitter. He posted a compelling statement asking fans to support decisions made by the team, even if they made fans feel uncomfortable.
“Any step we decide to make as a team, we want [fan] support every step of the way, not only on the football field but also when we are off the field, in class, walking the streets and driving our cars,” Merriweather said. “We want your support day-in and day-out.”
Iowa football got better today.
— Keith Duncan (@keithdunc3) June 8, 2020
“Any step we decide to make as a team, we want [fan] support every step of the way, not only on the football field but also when we are off the field, in class, walking the streets and driving our cars. We want your support day-in and day-out.”Kaevon Merriweather, sophomore defensive back
He said he expected backlash because of the Twitter post, but instead received more positive comments than negative.
“That showed the support this team has from the Iowa community,” he said.
Ferentz said the original Twitter ban was because of parental instinct and designed to protect the players.
“Certain things tell you to embody your players to have more freedom, more movement and more expression,” Ferentz said.
Kelly-Martin has also seen progress in a span of five days.
“These last couple of days in the weight room and out on the field, we can tell there’s a clear difference between how it is now and how it was then,” he said. “We’re excited about what we have to come, we’re excited to build relations, not only with our other teammates, but with our coaches, fans, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to create something big this year.”
The No. 16 Hawkeyes are coming off a 10-3 season, capped by four consecutive victories, including a 49-24 win over No. 22 Southern California in the Holiday Bowl.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 sparked national outrage that centered on race relations in the country. Many former Hawkeyes used social media to advocate that Iowa’s program could be enhanced as well.
A lot has happened — and improved — inside the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Facility in the 18 days since Floyd’s death. Ferentz mentioned a conversation with an incoming recruit, who told him “I’m excited to be here and we have a chance to set the bar for college football.”
“He is right,” Ferentz said. “That is our goal, it has been our goal, will be our goal today, tomorrow and moving forward.”
Iowa football got better this week.