Surveying the 150 participants in the Legends of Iowa Football Camp on Friday, camp coordinator Tyler Blum said the camp hosted by former Iowa players continues to fulfill its long-time objective.
"Bright eyes and big dreams, that’s what this is all about," Blum said. "This field is full of players who want to play the game and be Hawkeyes. They’re having fun, learning some fundamentals and, hopefully, learning a bit about what it takes to be a good person."
That has always been the objective of the camp, which originated in the Quad-Cities seven years ago but returned to the Quad-Cities for the first time in four years on Friday.
"We’ve come home," said Blum, a lineman who lettered from 2006-08. "We’re rotating the camp to several areas around the state because the Hawkeyes are so important to people across Iowa. This camp has become something a lot of our former players look forward to being a part of every year."
Two sessions were offered, a daylong camp for players entering grades 5-10 and an afternoon camp catering to players who will be in grades 1-4 next fall.
The camp was held for the first time at the TBK Bank Sports Complex in Bettendorf, utilizing outdoor fields in the morning before escaping the heat by shifting to the air-conditioned comfort of indoor turf fields in the afternoon.
Seven decades of former Hawkeyes were on hand to help teach the game, dating from 1952-54 letterwinner Lou Matykiewicz to George Kittle and Bo Bower from Iowa’s last two senior classes.
Quarterbacks Chuck Long and James Vandenberg and receivers Tim Dwight and Bill Happel were there, as were Quad-City area natives Pat Angerer, Julian Vandervelde and Hap Peterson.
"It’s fun to see the younger guys like George Kittle and Bo Bower and James Vandenberg get involved," said Happel, a letterwinner from 1983-85. "They are the Hawkeyes who the kids on the field relate to, and to have them here, talking with the campers, that’s great."
The former Hawkeyes led participants through a number of drills, each designed to stress a fundamental part of the game and provide something that will lead to tangible growth in their games.
Camp participants weren’t the only ones enjoying the day.
The former Hawkeyes who led the camp were having some fun, too, renewing acquaintances as well as raising dollars for charitable causes.
The Legends of Iowa camp is one of several fundraisers put together by the Iowa Football Club, its membership limited to all former Hawkeye football players, coaches, managers, trainers and support staff.
The former players volunteer their time at all fundraisers, including Friday’s camp, and monies raised support a number of children’s charities, including the Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad-Cities, the Quad-Cities-based HAV Life Foundation, the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Cancer Connection.
The group is also close to meeting a $100,000 pledge to support fundraising efforts that led to the construction of the Iowa’s football performance center and indoor practice facility.
"A lot of us played for coach (Hayden) Fry or coach (Kirk) Ferentz, and giving back is something both of those coaches stressed," said Peterson, an all-Big Ten nose guard from Bettendorf who lettered from 1982-85.
"Our club was formed in Kirk’s second year as a way to show support for the program at a time when the wins on the field weren’t as plentiful as they have been throughout much of his career. Iowa football has always been about more than wins and losses, and the work the club does for the charitable causes is a byproduct of our commitment to that."
That commitment is at the core of the Legends of Iowa Camp.
The friendships that develop and the shared experiences discovered only add to it.
"Anytime we get together, it’s great," said Long, the Heisman runner-up in 1985 who lettered from 1982-85. "The more we talk, the more we realize that while the game has changed a little bit, the experiences we had at Iowa are pretty similar, and that bond, it’s real and it’s lasting."