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Ex-player’s take: Coaches profoundly care about players

[ 14 ] January 29, 2011 |

Matt Bowen, 34, played seven years in the NFL after his career at Iowa (1995-99) under Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. Bowen has a journalism degree from Iowa and a Masters in writing and publishing from DePaul University.

It is easy for me to defend coach Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa football program — something I’ve had to do quite often this week in the eye of a national effort to come down on my alma mater.

Writers echoing loud words, throwing unprofessional opinions from a far distance, questioning the integrity of my head coach.

I was at the Senior Bowl when I heard the news of 13 Iowa players sent to the hospital after an offseason conditioning workout. My first thought was the health of the players, the young men who wear the same helmet as I did. It was an event that wasn’t designed to jeopardize the wellness of athletes in Iowa City. That’s not how we operate as Hawkeyes.

I’ve been there and done these workouts as a college athlete and through seven years in the NFL. That was my offseason as a pro, like so many other former Hawkeyes. Follow the guidelines of head strength coach Chris Doyle — because he is best in this business.

But it goes deeper than just the field and the weight room at Iowa. Kirk and Chris don’t develop our athletes to just play football at Kinnick Stadium. Instead, they train them for life — long after they turn in their helmets as seniors.

We become better husbands, fathers and members of the communities that we live in. That’s football at Iowa. Develop talent, yes, but develop character first.

Almost eight years after my final game as a Hawkeye, my first son, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. I am man enough to admit that I didn’t react well.

Scared, shaken and confused, I needed a voice of reason — of guidance. That voice was Chris Doyle. He was the first person I talked to outside of my family. That was followed by the calls I received from Kirk and defensive coordinator Norm Parker.

These coaches changed my outlook on life with my son. Pulled me back into reality.

In talking with former teammates this week, we all agreed that Iowa football under Kirk Ferentz changed us — made us into men. It wasn’t just about wins and losses during our time on campus.

I wish nothing but a strong recovery for the players who needed treatment, however don’t let this cloud your opinions of my coaches. They do care — greatly — and it goes farther than the national opinions we are all reading.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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