Every summer before the start of the college football season, sports media and award organizations put out their preseason watch lists — an overview of teams and players primed to make a splash — and this year nearly every list has representation from our hometown Hawkeyes. Coach Kirk Ferentz, a 2016 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award hopeful, has a shot at winning the award for the second year in a row, quarterback CJ Beathard and defensive back Desmond King are in the running for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, and linebacker Josey Jewell has been highlighted as a contender for both the Nagurski and Butkus awards. What a difference a year makes.
More award lists, more Hawkeyes
In addition to the aforementioned awards, the Hawks are in contention for the nation’s top quarterback, running back, defensive back, versatile player and the all-around stand-up guy award. The Davey O’Brien award, which honors the top quarterback in college football, has listed CJ Beathard as a preseason favorite (Iowa signal-callers Chuck Long and Brad Banks are both former O’Brien winners). The Jim Thorpe award for superlative defensive back has once again nominated Desmond King, the 2015 recipient of that award. King, often recognized for his role on punt return and special teams in addition to defensive back duties, is in contention for the Paul Hornung award for versatile players. For top running back, the Doak Walker award has listed LeShun Daniels, Jr. as a nominee.
Daniels is also in line for the Danny Wuerffel award, which goes to the athlete who serves as a model citizen in the community.
We’re nationally relevant again — cool!
For many Hawk fans, all of this preseason buzz would have seemed unimaginable this time last year (they were, after all, 34-30 over the past five seasons). It should be no surprise that this national relevance is built upon the “who saw that coming?” success of last year’s squad, a team that posted a perfect 12-0 regular season (and went on to come up short in the Big Ten title game before getting utterly smashed by Stanford in the Rose Bowl, but moving on…). It’s certainly exciting to see the Hawkeyes, a team maligned in the media for their lackluster on-field performance, return to a place of college football prominence.
There’s room on the bandwagon
Are you irked by the number of digits in Coach Ferentz’s salary? Perhaps. Do you find the culture associated with football fandom problematic in ways not limited to alcohol abuse? Perhaps. Was that “Hawks for Trump” ceremony totally whack? Yes! But wouldn’t it also be worthwhile to avail yourself of the collective catharsis of standing, shouting and jingling your keys for the Iowa Hawkeyes, crammed into Kinnick with 70,000 other Hawks fans, under the lights on a fall evening in Iowa City? If the 2016 squad possesses any of the magic of last year, it’s worth scoring yourself a ticket to find out.