I grew up in a small Eastern Iowa community named West Branch. It has a few claims to fame.
First and foremost, the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was born in my town. Just a couple hundred feet away from his small cottage is the multi-million dollar Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. There are very few kids in Iowa that have not taken a field trip there.
On an a side note, there is not one Wisconsin Badger football player who is an Iowa native. Not a single one. In fact, there are only two members of the football program that have any connection to the U of Iowa.
Marv Cook grew up in West Branch as well. He graduated from WBHS in 1984. Cook was the all-american boy that you read about in books or see in the movies. He was all-state in football three years (defensive end and quarterback), basketball (two years), track (three years), and baseball (three years). Marv was named the Des Moines Register's Male Athlete of the Year as a senior. His football abilities landed him a scholarship to play for Iowa. Cook was a four year letter winner at tight end, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, and a consensus All-American in 1988. He would be drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots. Cook would go on to be a two-time pro bowler (1991, 92), leading all NFL tight ends in receptions in 1991 with 82.
Wisconsin Badgers Assistant Coach Kerry Cooks was a member of the Iowa football team from 1994-1997. A four year letter winner at the strong safety position, he was named All-Big Ten as a senior in 1997. Additionally, he earned a spot in the East-West All-Star game. Kerry would be drafted by the Vikings in 1998 and spend three years in the NFL with three different teams.
Dave Rummells was an all-american golfer in high school and college. He won the state individual title two times, and led the WBHS Bears to a state championship in 1974. Rummells would go on to moderate success on the PGA Tour, culminating with his 1988 season in which he placed in the top 30 on the season ending money list. He has never won a tournament, but his name is still seen as royalty in his hometown and around the state.
Prophetstown, Illinois native (pop. 2021) Bret Bielema was a walk-on football player at the University of Iowa in 1988. He earned a scholarship with his hard work and effort, and then earned a starting position in 1991 as a junior. The 1991 defense was one of the best in the history of the school. His now famous quote to the Iowa State head coach after a game will be remembered in Hawkeye lore forever. "Coach, it sure has been nice kickin' your ass the last five years." His tattoo of the Iowa tiger hawk logo on his ankle has been the topic of many a message board conversation.
"I told the team that me being a Hawkeye is in the past. It's history." Bielema said on Monday during his weekly press conference. "History is great to read about, but changes nothing in the future. We will have to execute well to win."
How fitting is that quote.
I write about things in my past a lot, and this week it is all coming to a head. I have truly become fond of my opportunity to be a very small part of the University of Wisconsin. Badger fans and Hawkeye fans have one thing in common: they both have great memories when thinking about Bret Bielema. Hawkeye fans remember him as a hard nosed football player who talked to the Cyclone coach on the field after the game. Badger fans are just beginning to scratch the surface of their excitement for him. But the nine wins in ten games have them jumping in the whole state, not just the north endzone before the fourth quarter starts.
I will always remember the history that Bret Bielema, Kerry Cooks, and even Barry Alvarez were a part of while at the University of Iowa. On Saturday, we will get to see that happen again. Perhaps with a Badger victory to end a four-game win streak for the home team. Iowa enters the game having lost two of its last three games. Wisconsin enters the game having won its last six. If you look back at 2005, the Hawkeyes entered the Wisconsin game on a two game losing streak. The Badgers entered the game having won four of its last five. There is not a member of the Badger team that has ever beaten Iowa. Who better to lead the team toward ending that streak than a former Hawkeye?
History is a peculiar thing. It may not effect the future, but it sure does make it fun to think about.