Each year, the Iowa football team goes by a motto. They tag their season with a phrase that describes that team for the year. "Break the Rock", "Next Man In", "Find A Way."
This year? 212 Degrees.
At the press conference this week, I asked Kirk Ferentz what that meant. Another reporter instantly remarked, "It's the boiling point of water." Ferentz clarified.
"211's hot, but it takes 212 to boil water," Ferentz said. "That extra degree is just a matter of everybody [working hard]. It takes teamwork."
Iowa's head strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle, was the one who decided on the catchphrase. The idea of 212 degrees has also been used recently by many motivational speakers, both in business and personal settings.
A slogan can only take you so far, but the players have to buy into that idea before it has any effect. I asked redshirt freshman Rafael Eubanks, who is slated to start his first college football game in less than 36 hours, what 212 degrees meant to him.
"To me, it means putting in more work than anybody else will, in the country," Eubanks said. "It means doing everything possible when it counts. Even when we're not on the field, just doing everything that will give us an advantage over anybody, no matter what.
"Some teams might have more talent, but there's no team in the country that's going to have prepared, and put in as much work as we have."
Working towards a common goal has helped bring this team together, and leaders have emerged, sometimes from unexpected places. Who takes a motivational role in the weight room, film room, etc?
"Everybody can do it," Eubanks said. "If you see a teammate that's kind of down, maybe not working as hard, just being able to say something to him and having him respect that and step up his game. That's what makes this team so special. It doesn't have to be from that one key guy, it can be from anybody, and everybody will listen."
The young guys seem to be on board, as well as the veterans. Senior free safety Marcus Paschal looks for a definite improvement from seasons past, using 212 degrees as a springboard.
"That's something special that happens," Paschal said. "We've been around 208, 209, we've been having hot water in recent years, but we're trying to do something special this year, which is boil water. We're trying to get to that level, 212 degrees. We're going to have to work each and every day to try and attain that goal."
Senior strong safety Miguel Merrick agrees, hoping to improve on seasons past.
"Obviously, you don't want to go back and say, ‘What if' or ‘Woulda, shoulda', but 7-5, that's not what we expect around here," Merrick said. "That's not what we work hard all year-round for."
How will all this motivation transfer onto the field?
"It gives us more confidence on the field in the fourth quarter, knowing those extra lifts and those extra runs that we did in the off-season is what's helping us right now," Eubanks said. "Digging those other guys into the ground. Just trying to beat their will."
Eubanks, Merrick, Paschal and the rest of the Hawkeyes get their first opportunity to reach 212 degrees on Saturday when the Hawkeyes take on the Montana Grizzlies.