I am thankful for the Iowa Football Coach Selection committee from 1999. Thank you for taking your time and not giving in to Bob Stoops' demands of needing a decision ASAP. Thank you for waiting and going through your own process, because you landed Kirk Ferentz.
I believe that Kirk and the staff he assembled at Iowa are perfect for the football program that we all know and love. The man is humble an that has trickled down through his staff, or rather, he found staff members that exhibit those same characteristics.
I threw my hat into the Ferentz camp from day one and I could not be more pleased with the man that is Iowa's head coach.
I can still vividly remember being on the field in the Alamodome after Iowa's thrilling 19-16 win against Texas Tech in 2001. On the victor's podium, Ferentz uttered these words: "The Hawks are back! Here we go!" I remember being struck at how that was not a typical statement from Ferentz and it seemed out of character.
But clearly, he knew something that we did not, that his program was turning a corner and there were bright days ahead.
Over the next two seasons after Ferentz made that statement, Iowa has won an unprecedented 20 games.
I am thankful for Robert Gallery, Nate Kaeding and Bob Sanders. I am thankful for every football player that commits years of his life and hard work to the football program that brings so much joy to so many, but these three players were the pillars of the rebuilding job that Ferentz and his staff have pulled off.
Gallery is the poster child for Chris Doyle's strength and conditioning program. Five years and 80 pounds later, the former ‘skinny' tight end prospect is now positioned to be the first offensive lineman taken in April's NFL draft.
Kaeding is as mentally tough a football player as I have seen at Iowa and it is doubtful that many of us will live to see his name surpassed in the Hawkeye record books. If there has been a kicker worth drafting in the first round, Nate Kaeding is that man. Sebastain Janakowski went in the first round a few years ago, and he has been a good weapon for Oakland, but he is not what you would call a high character guy and is not a citizen that parents with daughters necessarily would want in their city with his ‘rufies' in tow. Kaeding is Iowa City bred and he is not going to be a risk for any team that selects him.
NOTE TO KANSAS CITY: You will have a low first round draft pick this year. Last year's first round draft pick, running back Larry Johnson, has been active for just two of your games. Your kicker, Morten Andersen, is 98 years old. I doubt that you will find a player that late in the first round that would have a bigger impact on your team's box score next year than Nate Kaeding. Former Hawkeye Jason Baker has been struggling on kick offs this year. Kaeding would cure that as well.
And then you have Bob Sanders. Prior to Sanders' arrival at Iowa, Tim Dwight was my all time favorite Hawkeye (sorry, Marv. I still love ya though, West Branch). After having the sheer pleasure of watching Bob Sanders play the last four years, he has now moved atop my list.
Sanders joins some elite company at Iowa when he was selected first team All Big Ten this week for the third time in his career. Consider the fact that Sanders earned all Big Ten first team as a TRUE sophomore, it is not out of the realm of imagination to think that this lightly regarded player from Erie, PA that nobody outside of the MAC wanted except for Kirk Ferentz could have become the first Hawkeye to be named first team all Big Ten for four years. I am not sure that has ever happened in the league.
With a redshirt season, there is no reason to believe that Sanders would not have done just that.
Norm Parker has seen a lot of football players, and he says that Sanders hits the hardest of any player he has seen. Kirk Ferentz says that Sanders is tougher than any football player he has been around.
Those statements say a lot about the heart and courage of Bob Sanders. It pains me to think of watching Iowa play football without #33 on the field.
Someone on the boards had a great suggestion. In lieu of retiring jerseys at Iowa, the Hawkeyes should consider ‘holding' jersey numbers for players until they perform at a level that is deemed worthy for them to wear a certain number.
For example, whoever wears the #1 jersey at Michigan does not just get that once a player graduates and the number is thrown back into the freshman pool. It is a special honor, one that WR Braylon Edwards received this year.
Instead of giving #33 to a freshman next season, I think the Iowa coaches should keep that on the shelf as an award for a defensive player who at some point during his career is deemed worthy to wear that number and who has demonstrated the skill, character and toughness of Bob Sanders.
#16 should be the same thing for quarterbacks.
Just an idea, but I think Sanders deserves some kind of honor.
A related thank you to Joe Moore, Kirk Ferentz's mentor, former high school and college coach and dear friend. Moore passed away late in the summer and it hit Kirk hard. Outside of Kirk's father, Moore probably had as big an influence in Kirk's life as anyone.
It was Moore that alerted Ferentz to Bob Sanders. The story goes that Moore told Ferentz that he needed to give Sanders a scholarship. We all know that Bob is not the tallest player and is certainly not your prototypical strong safety, due to his size. Allegedly, Kirk asked Joe where Sanders would play, to which Joe said ‘It does not matter. He will make your special teams better and he will make your football team better.'
That was quite a prophecy, and Sanders was grateful to Moore, who was coaching him at Erie Cathedral Prep.
Life always offers up several examples of what can be accomplished when we believe in ourselves, but this is a great tribute of what can happen when you a) believe in yourself; b) someone else believes in you and c) someone gives you a chance.
Were it not for Joe Moore, Bob Sanders would have been making tackles somewhere in the Mid American Conference. It's amazing, but it's the stone cold truth.
I am thankful for the faithful readers and subscribers of Hawkeyenation.com and Hawkeye Nation magazine. My wife and my baby daughter are thankful for you as well. Through your support over the years, you have helped me achieve a lifelong dream of being one of the ‘voices' that tells the Hawkeye stories. I knew this was what I wanted to do since I was a young boy, and thanks to your support of my efforts, I am living a dream.
Thanks also to Rob Howe for taking a chance on me as well, leaving his post as beat writer for Iowa football and Iowa Men's basketball at the Iowa City Press-Citizen, a traditional media outlet, to start up a new magazine and a ‘new' website at on a different network. Rob has put in an unbelievable amount of work and he has written more words on the Hawkeye football program this year than anyone in the business. He has gotten home very late from most of the Big Ten road games and still finished his work and getting in on the website before going to bed.
Thanks to Jamie DeMoney for putting together the aesthetic aspects of the magazine, something I am very proud to be a part of. Thanks to Josh Clark, Marty Gallagher, Barry Crist, Sean Dumm, Scott Wilder and Eli for your contributions.
Thanks to Chuck Hartlieb, Gary Dolphin, Jess Settles, Mark Allen, Brent Balbinot, Steve Deace, Keith Murphy, Marc Morehouse, Mike Hlas, Van Hardin, Joe Chmelka and so many others for your support and friendship.
Thanks to my family for creating such a perfect childhood in West Branch, Iowa and a place to foster dreams. Thanks to the community of West Branch and all of my friends there for great, great memories.
Thanks to my wife for understanding that watching Iowa football and basketball games is actually part of my job, for not minding when I come to bed at 1:00am each and every night and for agreeing to spend Valentine's Day in Iowa City this year so that I could be a part of FanFest 2004. What a trooper!
Thanks to God for my family and thanks to Jesus for my salvation.
And again, thanks to you, the reader and subscriber to this website, otherwise I would just be talking to myself.
It is truly and indeed a great, great time to be a Hawkeye.
Due to family obligations and travel plans, there will not be any new content items produced by the Hawkeyenation.com staff on Thursday or Friday, UNLESS Iowa's bowl picture becomes clear or if news breaks. We hope that you enjoy spending time with your family as well.