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Fallen Navy SEAL’s dog could lead Hawkeyes onto field

[ 34 ] August 26, 2011 |

Former Iowa football player Jon Lazar has come up with a great idea to honor Rockford native Jon Tumilson, the Navy SEAL who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan.

Lazar learned about Tumilson’s close relationship with his Labrador retriever Hawkeye after a video of Hawkeye lying next to Tumilson’s casket during the funeral went viral on the Internet.

Lazar has since contacted the Iowa football office with a request to have Hawkeye lead the Iowa football team onto the field for a game this season at Kinnick Stadium.

See the photo here.

“It just tears you apart to see that (video),” Lazar said Friday morning. “But I thought how great it would be for that dog to lead the Hawkeyes down to the field and to have the announcer tell the story of this dog.

“I think everybody would be crying in the stands.”

I know at least one person that would be crying. It’s still impossible for me to watch the video of Hawkeye lying next to his fallen master and not break down.

From all accounts, Tumilson loved his family, his country, his Hawkeyes and his dog. Tumilson’s death was a tragedy, but he packed so much into his 35 years and he died defending his country.

In other words, he died a hero to us and to his dog.

And owning two dogs myself, the bond between man and his best friend never should be underestimated.

It was almost as if Hawkeye was reminding us about that when he refused to leave the side of the casket during the funeral. Hawkeye was being loyal to the very end and paying his respects to the person that brought so much joy and purpose to his life.

Tumilson was one of the 38 soldiers killed in Afghanistan on August 6 when a rocket-propelled grenade shot down a Chinook helicopter in which he was riding.

His funeral in Rockford drew nearly 1,500 mourners, and of course, one special dog.

It also drew the attention of thousands of people after a cousin of Tumilson’s posted on her Facebook page a picture showing Hawkeye lying in front of Tumilson’s casket during the funeral.

The video shows Tumilson’s friend Scott Nichols walking to the front of the room to give his eulogy with Hawkeye following close behind.

Hawkeye then dropped to the ground, and according to several eyewitness reports, let out a giant sigh. Hawkeye stayed in the same spot next to the casket throughout the funeral.

As of Thursday the video had received more than 113,000 views.

Lazar was among those touched by what he saw.

So much so that on Thursday, he shared his idea with Rita Foley, who is the secretary for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

Lazar also likes the idea of having Hawkeye accompany the Iowa captains to mid-field for the pregame coin toss.

“I just told her, ‘Hey, listen, this is a great opportunity to show your patriotism and love for the country and to honor a fallen hero,” said Lazar, a Tama native who played fullback at Iowa from 1975-78 and now lives in North Carolina. “She said she was going to send it over to event planning.”

Hopefully, event planning will agree with Lazar and do the right thing by honoring Tumilson and his dog, assuming Tumilson’s family is OK with the idea and assuming Hawkeye could handle the noise generated by 70,000 adoring fans.

If there isn’t enough time to work out the details before next Saturday’s season opener against Tennessee Tech, then shoot for the next home game at Kinnick Stadium.

This is just too good of an idea to pass up.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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