IOWA CITY — Micah Hyde first let the secret out in August. Then, the Hawkeyes’ Veterans Day tribute uniforms showed up on the shelves of a local sporting goods store in September.
We know the Hawkeyes’ uniforms and helmets will be different this weekend, honoring the men and women who have served America’s military. If you go by the Scheels All Sports mannequin, the pants likely will be silver with a black jersey and black cleats.
Players said in August the helmet also would be silver. The nameplates on the backs of the jerseys will be a branch of the armed services. Players were given choice of branch in August, but it might now be a more even distribution to represent all branches.
Nothing official from Iowa on Tuesday, but spokesman Steve Roe asked fans to arrive early to observe a pregame military salute. They literally will wear their honor on their sleeves Saturday when the Hawkeyes (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) play host to Purdue (3-6, 0-5).
“My only question on the whole thing was whatever we do, I don’t want to offend anyone in the military,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “So, we checked with people who have expertise in all of the branches and wanted to make sure everyone thought it was a good idea. I think it is really a nice way to honor a special group of people.”
This is a subject that goes right to Ferentz’s heart.
His father, John, who passed away in 2004, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. James Ferentz, Kirk’s son and Iowa’s starting center, said he picked “Army” for his nameplate to honor his grandfather. Also, along with lifelong friend and fellow Upper St. Clair, Pa., native Mike Fornear, Ferentz is involved in the Homeless Veterans Project, which is just getting off the ground in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“I’m hardly on the ground level, but a good friend of mine is really involved with the homeless veteran issue,” Ferentz said. “There are no politics involved in that, it’s all about what’s right and what’s wrong.
“Any recognition we can give to the vets . . . Today is a great example. We all have the right to go vote and you can’t say that about a lot of places. If we are doing something positive [with the uniforms] that’s a great thing.”
Right on down the line Tuesday, every Iowa player who showed up for interviews was asked which name of the military branch they picked (they were asked back in August) and then named people close to them who have served or who are serving.
“It’s an opportunity for us to give thanks to the real heroes of this nation, the men and women who’ve put their lives on the line for us,” James Ferentz said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t get washed away. Everybody is paying tribute this weekend, so hopefully, it’s not overlooked and the servicemen and servicewomen of this country understand how appreciative we are of them.”
Wide receiver Keenan Davis picked the Army. His half brother, Damon Davis, is in the Army. He also has a cousin, Adam Edwards, is in special ops.
“Whichever branch everyone chose, it means something to them,” Davis said. “It means a lot to me, because I have a lot of family members in the military.”
Offensive tackle Matt Tobin requested to have “Air Force” on his back. His brother-in-law serves and lives with Tobin’s sister at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
Yes, Iowa is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and its bowl eligibility is job 1 this weekend. The timing could be better, but the thought is what counts here.
“It’s good for us to honor those guys and girls,” Tobin said.
Quarterback James Vandenberg picked the “Iowa National Guard.” He said he has a few friends from his hometown Keokuk who have served in that branch.
“I think a lot of the players know guys who’ve served and who went into the military out of high school,” Vandenberg said. “I have several who did it. It makes it that much more important and a cool thing for us to do on Saturday.”
Hyde has a friend from back home in Fostoria, Ohio, who lost a leg while serving. He put in to wear “Army” across his back.
“We had a big thing for him my junior year in high school,” Hyde said. “The school retired his jersey. It was a big honor back then and I just want to honor him now for his service.”
Coincidentally, Hyde voted for the first time on Tuesday.
“That was something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “There are a lot of people fighting for our freedom to do that, so it’s a great honor.”