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How Hawkeyes lineman dropped 'fan mentality' toward Buckeyes

[ 0 ] October 16, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Donnal family home has undergone a makeover, Big Ten style.

Their basement was once a shrine to all things Ohio State. The Donnals made more than a few 280-mile round-trip drives from their home in Monclova, Ohio, to Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

“I had my fair share of games growing up,” said Andrew Donnal, a big fan of Buckeye linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter. “It was a great place to watch football games.”

Andrew returns to The Horseshoe, in an Iowa uniform, when the Hawkeyes face No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday. And that’s one reason the basement in Monclova has been redone.

Iowa offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, an Monclova, Ohio, native, grew up an Ohio State fan. (USA TODAY Sports photo)

Iowa offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, a Monclova, Ohio, native, grew up an Ohio State fan. (USA TODAY Sports photo)

“When I came here, we got rid of a lot of that stuff,” said Donnal, a junior who has played both guard and tackle in Iowa’s offensive line this season. “We had to start decorating with some black and gold. We’ve got some Hawkeye stuff in the basement now.”

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It doesn’t stop there. Andrew’s brother, Mark, is a freshman forward on Michigan’s basketball team.

“We threw the whole family for a loop,” Andrew said. “We’re all getting integrated into the dual team household now.”

Iowa offered Andrew a scholarship when he was a sophomore at Anthony Wayne High School in Whitehouse, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. He also talked to Ohio State, but hadn’t been offered a scholarship when the committed to the Hawkeyes as a junior.

“I took my visit here, and this is where I wanted to be,” said the 6-foot-7, 305-pound Donnal.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff spends a lot of time recruiting Ohio.

“We can’t get a majority of our roster from in-state, unfortunately,” Ferentz said. “I wish we could. It’s probably just not realistic, based on history. So we have to go to other places.”

Ferentz has three assistant coaches recruiting Ohio — offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, defensive assistant Jim Reid and defensive coordinator Phil Parker. Three Hawkeye starters — cornerback B.J. Lowery, safety John Lowdermilk and linebacker Anthony Hitchens — are from Ohio. So are backups Donnal, tight end Ray Hamilton and cornerback Sean Draper.

Five of the 20 players in the 2013 recruiting class — running back LeShun Daniels, defensive lineman Brent Gessel, receiver Damond Powell, defensive back Solomon Warfield and offensive lineman Sean Welsh — are from Ohio. The Class of 2014 includes one commitment from Ohio so far, running back C.J. Hilliard.

“Everybody recruits in Ohio,” Ferentz said. “If you look around our league, there are a lot of players on other rosters that have done well from the state. They can’t take them all. It’s a good football state.”

Donnal said it wasn’t hard to drop his Buckeyes allegiance.

“Once you get into the business of getting offers and stuff, you drop that fan mentality,” Donnal said. “That was the last time the Buckeyes were really anywhere in my head.”

On Saturday, Donnal’s lifelong wish will be granted — playing a game in Ohio Stadium.

“I’ve wanted to do it since I was a kid,” Donnal said. “Playing in The Horseshoe. I’m going to be excited. I’ve got to figure out a way not the play the game before it starts.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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