CHICAGO — Fall camp begins for the Iowa football team at 6:50 p.m. on Friday, but the hours between now and then may be some of the most important of the season.
The Hawkeyes are enjoying a bit of a break between the end of their summer work last week and the official start of the season and the work that leads up to the Sept. 1 season opener at Kinnick Stadium against Northern Illinois.
"You have to learn how to step away and decompress a little bit," defensive end Parker Hesse said at the recent Big Ten kickoff. "I think that’s healthy."
It’s also something that Iowa coaches talk about with players, stressing the importance of making the most of the breaks in the schedule to not only clear their minds and rest their bodies but to re-energize for what lies ahead.
Hesse anticipated getting away from Iowa City for a few days this week, looking forward to spending time with family and friends before starting his final fall camp at Iowa.
"Just hanging out, relaxing and getting ready for the start of the season, it’s important to do that," Hesse said. "Every player invests a lot of time into football all year, but when you get a break you have to make the most of it."
Quarterback Nate Stanley sees that as well.
"We could live in the football complex if we wanted to, we’re that invested. But there are times when you need to step away and catch your breath," Stanley said. "Coach (Kirk) Ferentz talks about that, how you need to create some time to get away and get your mind off football."
There will be plenty of time for football beginning Friday, but early this week Stanley was among the Hawkeyes trying to enjoy a quick break following the completion of summer work before turning his thoughts to the practice field.
He views the opportunity as a chance to recharge and prepare for the 17-week grind that follows.
"You have to take advantage of the breaks when they come along and enjoy a bit of a personal life," Stanley said. "I find that you come back more ready to compete and more ready to go if you do take a bit of a break."
That can be easier said than done.
"You find yourself thinking about things. Maybe there is time to look at a tape or something, but when the chance is there you have to step away," Hesse said.
"It’s for the best. I see that now more that I’m older. It’s important to go into camp recharged and ready to go at 100 percent. Those five or six days away, they get you ready."