And Saturday at 11:05 a.m., Hinkel will be a starting wide receiver for the Hawkeyes (3-1) against 12th-ranked Penn State (3-0) before more than 100,000 fans in a Big Ten opener at University Park, Pa.
Included in the mob at 107,282-seat Beaver Stadium will be Peggy and Mike Hinkel, his parents.
"My mom probably will be going nuts,'' Hinkel said. "She'll be a nervous wreck. I mean, she really isn't one to be able to handle a lot of pressure. She says she doesn't know how she's going to make it through four years of me standing back there catching punts.
"My dad is a pretty calm guy, so he'll probably be fine with it.''
In the recruiting process, Hinkel said, "Penn State kind of jumped in late on me. Iowa Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and his staff were actually the first to offer me a scholarship. They were there the whole way with me, so that's one of the reasons I'm a Hawkeye.
"It was a hard decision to make. Basically, it came down to me deciding that Iowa was the best fit for me.''
Hinkel said he finally made his decision to choose Iowa over Penn State a week before the signing date.
The 6-1, 170-pound Hinkel, a redshirt freshman, has caught nine passes for 86 yards.
"Erie is about 3 ½ hours from Penn State,'' he said. "The only Penn State game I've ever been to was the Iowa game two years ago. I went as a Penn State recruit, but I actually talked to Coach Ferentz on the sidelines there.
"I was kind of cheering for Iowa, but I had no clue then where I was going to school. It was a great experience, being a Pennsylvania guy and seeing that Iowa could go into Penn State and win a football game.''
The Nov. 4, 2000 game at Penn State was perhaps the most exciting in the 16-game series. Iowa won, 26-23, in two overtimes.
Asked if that was something that helped convince him to accept Iowa's scholarship offer, Hinkel said, "Yes, a little bit. Iowa and Penn State were two schools I was looking at, and it was a big factor that Iowa could win (in the rivalry).''
Hinkel admits he was a Penn State fan while growing up.
"I never heard of Iowa until they started recruiting me,'' he said. "I did dream of playing at Penn State, but things just didn't work out. Now I'm playing here.''
Asked if his decision to leave Pennsylvania and head west to Iowa was popular among his family and friends, Hinkel said, "Everybody supported me. Wherever I chose to go, people were wishing me the best of luck.''
Hinkel said he twice visited with Paterno, the nation's Division I career leader in victories with a 330-96-3 record, during the recruiting process.
"It was tough to tell Penn State that I wasn't going there,'' Hinkel said. "I didn't actually tell Coach Paterno. I told assistant coach Tom Bradley. I know they were pretty upset that I decided to come here.''
Hinkel said "it's going to be amazing'' to play in Penn State's huge stadium. "I've sat in the stands to see one game there, but to actually play there is going to be a whole different story,'' he said.
Hinkel said he's been able to scrape up about 20 tickets for Saturday's game, but added that he warned his family that he didn't know how many he'd be able to come up with.
"So a lot of them just went ahead and bought tickets,'' he said. "So everybody who wanted tickets was able to get them. We're going to have a big crowd there from Erie.''
Two of Hinkel's Iowa teammates – Bob Sanders and Jovon Johnson – are also from Erie. Sanders is a junior defensive back and Johnson, a true freshman, is a defensive back. Sanders will start at strong safety after missing the Utah State game with an injury. Johnson has played in four of the Hawkeyes' games.
Iowa has won the last two games of the Penn State series, and has a 4-3 record in games played at University Park.
Ferentz was born in Royal Oak, Mich., but attended St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh and then the University of Connecticut.
I asked Ferentz what Joe Paterno has meant to college football and he said, "That is a little bit more personal to me. As I grew up as a kid, two of the coaches I admired were Joe Paterno and Chuck Noll (who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles).
"Living where I lived, they were in the media all the time. I watched Coach Paterno's (TV) show. The bottom line is, it's great to see someone who has done it right and be so successful.
"I don't think I'll go out on a limb and say we'll never see that again with the kind of tenure he's had at Penn State. I can't imagine any coaching getting an opportunity that early and lasting that long at one institution.
"It's just a great commentary on college sports. He stands for all the things that are good in college sports. I'm happy for all of his success—I just hope he doesn't have too much against Iowa.''
Vol. 2, No. 65
Sept. 25, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is email@example.com ]