JOHNSTON, Iowa — Jake Gervase remembers it well.
Then a wide-eyed sixth grader, he soaked up everything Pat Angerer and Tim Dwight had to say during the first Legends of Iowa Football Camp on a sweltering July day on the practice fields at Bettendorf High School.
"I remember it was so cool going through drills with them and getting a chance to actually meet them," Gervase recalled Saturday. "Those are a couple of guys who stuck out. I remember Pat specifically. It was a good time."
Now preparing for his senior season in the Iowa secondary, the Davenport Assumption alum joined other Hawkeye seniors and a handful of underclassmen in working with about 400 kids who took part in a free football clinic hosted by Iowa at Johnston Middle School.
Split into two sessions, young players in grades one through eight from as far away as Bettendorf took part.
They ran through a rapid-fire session of drills, charging into a tackling dummy held up by Matt Nelson, lunging through a rolling tire before it reached Brandon Snyder or taking a handoff from Austin Kelly.
Putting together the camp was a group project for Iowa’s senior football players, an opportunity to give something back and a chance to work toward community service expectations that go along with being a student-athlete at the collegiate level.
"These are the kids who are out there on Saturdays rooting us on, and it’s good to have a chance to come out and have some fun with them and maybe make their day," junior defensive Michael Ojemudia said. "I know this. They’ve made my day. I remember being in their shoes, and to be part of something like this, it’s special."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Hawkeye players participate in community service activities annually from January through August, working on many projects around the Iowa City area.
Players are awarded points for participation and community service is one component in the Hawkeye Challenge, a competitive summertime program that rewards players for meeting goals in the weight room and in other aspects of training.
"We’re competitors, and we do like to out-do each other in everything, including the time we put into community service projects," Nelson said. "It’s a friendly competition, but guys do take it seriously."
Hawkeye seniors have traditionally organized a project that took Iowa players to Camp Courageous in Jones County in recent years, hosting activities at the year-round respite care and recreational facility for individuals of all ages with disabilities.
Recently, that outing has moved to the Iowa campus, and football players still volunteer their time, leaving an opening for a new "senior project."
The decision not to host a spring practice in the Des Moines area this year created an opportunity for the Hawkeyes to bring a camp to central Iowa for the first time.
NCAA rules preclude it from being held on a high school facility, but the artificial turf at Johnston Middle School provided ample space for Iowa to host the camp and acknowledge fans from central and western Iowa.
"This is a little payback for the people who travel five or six hours across the state to get to Kinnick on seven Saturdays in the fall," Ferentz said. "This seemed like a good way to do it. We’re reaching young people, and all of the kids have parents, too. It’s a good way to interact with people of all ages and have a feel-good type day."
Iowa defensive lineman Sam Brincks said it played out that way.
"It was a lot of fun," the senior from Carroll, Iowa, said. "I grew up wanting to be an Iowa football player, and having the chance to meet guys on the team when I was a little kid would have meant so much to me. It was great for us to come out and spend some time with them."
When each session of the camp ended, participants had a chance to ask Ferentz and the Hawkeye players questions.
Ferentz was asked how Iowa planned stop Penn State this season.
"I don’t know if he thought it was going to be easy since (running back Saquon) Barkley isn’t there or what. I wish it was that easy," said Ferentz, who was also asked how many Super Bowls the Hawkeyes have played in.
"We’ve got a little educating to do on that one."