Former Hawkeye All-American Jerry Hilgenberg Passes

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former University of Iowa All-American Jerry Hilgenberg has passed away at the age of 92. Hilgenberg was the last surviving assistant coach from Iowa’s historic 1958 Big Ten, Rose Bowl and national championship team. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Hilgenberg started at center for three seasons for the Hawkeyes (1951-53). He was a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten honoree his senior season. Hilgenberg, and guard Cal Jones, were Hall of Fame Coach Forest Evashevski’s first All-Americans.

Hilgenberg led the Hawkeyes to a final national ranking of No. 9 in 1953, the program’s highest final ranking since 1939. He also excelled in the classroom earning Academic All-District and All-Big Ten accolades as a senior. Hilgenberg was invited to play in two postseason all-star games after his senior campaign, the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.

A native of Wilton, Iowa, Hilgenberg also lettered in baseball in 1952 and 1953, serving as a co-captain his senior season.

“Jerry Hilgenberg was a first-class individual. I got to know him during the 1980’s as a successful businessman and father to four incredible children, including two that I was lucky enough to coach. He was a friend and supporter of our program for decades. Mary and I send our condolences to the whole Hilgenberg family. He will be greatly missed.”

University of Iowa Moon Family Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

Hilgenberg was drafted in the fourth round of the 1954 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, but did not play professionally. He was also drafted by the U.S. Air Force.

When he returned from service, Hilgenberg was hired as a Hawkeye assistant football coach for eight seasons (1956-63). During his coaching tenure, the Hawkeyes were recognized as national champions (1958), won three conference titles (1956, 1958, 1960) and two Rose Bowls (1957, 1959). While on staff, Hilgenberg was able to coach his younger brother, Wally, who was an all-conference performer and ultimately played in four Super Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I had the pleasure to have Jerry as a mentor, partner and good friend for 50 years,” said former Hawkeye quarterback Mike Cilek (1967-69). “As a partner in the real estate business, he was wonderful to work with and he taught you to do business the right way. Jerry taught us all what he and I learned from athletics that can be carried on for an entire lifetime. He made our work together fun by working hard but enjoying every day.”

Hilgenberg was inducted into the Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1995. He was also voted on various all-time Hawkeye teams, including Iowa’s All-Century Team in 1989.

The Hilgenberg family totaled 19 letters spanning five decades (1951 – 1995): Jerry (3), Wally (3), Jim (3), Jay (4), Joel (4) and Eric (2).