IOWA CITY — Parker Hesse understands how a productive summer can set the tone for a successful football season.
The Iowa defensive end recalls how the Hawkeyes’ 2015 team came together during June and July, putting in the work and developing the chemistry that positioned the team to earn a Big Ten West Division championship and ultimately a Rose Bowl berth.
"The legacy of that team is the road map they left for the rest of us for how to prepare for success," Hesse said. "The way they went about their business, the way they helped the younger guys grow and progress, it made a difference that season."
Now preparing for his own senior season, Hesse is working with other players in a small Hawkeye senior class to replicate what transpired in the summer of 2015 with hopes of duplicating the on-field success Iowa enjoyed that season.
"It became a special season because of the way the upperclassmen on that team led," Hesse said. "Those seniors did a good job of self-policing each other to make sure the work was getting done, improvements were being made and that the team was ready to compete when the season rolled around."
Iowa is in the midst of its summer workouts now.
Players reported to campus three weeks ago, and two months from today, the Hawkeyes open the season with a 2:30 p.m. game against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.
To Hesse, this is in many respects the most important part of the season.
"The work we get done in the summer is big, especially in helping the young guys make the progress they need to be in a position to step in and help in the fall," Hesse said.
He recalls how former Hawkeye defensive end Drew Ott helped him get ready to compete.
"He went out of his way to help me. Any question I had, he answered. Anything I wasn’t doing correctly, he took the time to show me how to do it right," Hesse said. "It was more than a player helping a player; it was developing a bond and creating that sense of team. It did make a difference."
Hesse is among a collection of three returning starters on Iowa’s four-man defensive front, and with the use of an effective rotation a year ago, the Hawkeyes’ defensive line has no shortage of experience to build on in 2018.
But, the developmental process continues.
Older Hawkeyes mentoring younger Hawkeyes, it’s what the summer is about at the Iowa football practice facility.
"It’s a part of how this program is built, and it’s something that you want to pass on to the younger guys," Hesse said.
"The way we were able to compete up front last year was a result in part of what we learned from the players who came before us. Now as I get ready for my senior season, it’s time to pass what I’ve learned on to the younger players."
Beyond learning how to be productive defensive end in the Big Ten, Hesse said he learned from Ott the significance of the attention to detail.
Those lessons positioned Hesse to count 10.5 tackles for a loss among the 43 stops he had last season for Iowa, a junior year that included forcing two fumbles and recording a key interception in a 44-41 overtime victory at Iowa State.
For the 6-foot-3, 261-pound Waukon, Iowa, native, that production was a byproduct of preparation.
"Football is a team game, and collectively, you get out of it what you put into it," Hesse said.
Reflecting on his time at Iowa, he recalls walking off the field as a redshirt freshman at the TaxSlayer Bowl following a humbling 45-28 loss to Tennessee that wasn’t as close as the final score.
"Coming out of that game, it was clear that things had to change, and the seniors in 2015, there weren’t many of them just like our class, but they led the right way," Hesse said.
"They held each other accountable. They put in the sweat and the detail work to make it happen. It started with the way it came together in the summer. We need to make that happen again, and that’s what we’re working on now."