Oct. 18, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Buckeye-themed basement at the Ron and Susie Donnal home in Montclova, Ohio, began to change colors in 2010 when their son, Andrew, signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Iowa.
The news and new color scheme took a while for some family members to accept, including grandpa Paul Reid, who Andrew calls a "die-hard" Buckeye fan. Emotions will be stoked again Saturday when Donnal and his black and gold Hawkeyes invade Columbus, Ohio, to play the scarlet and gray No. 4 Buckeyes.
"When I came here we got rid of all that (Ohio State) stuff," Donnal said. "It was hard for some family members, but they all converted to the good side, and they all support me."
The town of Montclova in Northwest Ohio is 141 miles from Columbus. Donnal attended games in Ohio Stadium, admired the linebacker play of AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Anthony Schlegel, and admitted to being a Buckeye fan, "until this."
Translated, "until this" means the day he became a student-athlete at the University of Iowa. A 6-foot-7, 305-pound junior offensive lineman, Donnal is listed on the depth chart as a backup right guard. He has also played tackle for the Hawkeyes (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten).
"It was a great place watching football games," Donnal said of 102,329-seat Ohio Stadium, known as the Horseshoe because of its unique design. "I grew up loving the Buckeyes. That's what I knew -- Ohio State and Big Ten football."
Donnal stayed in the Big Ten Conference, just not in the state of Ohio. He had recruiting communications with the Buckeyes, but they did not offer a scholarship. That point was moot after Donnal visited Iowa City.
"I took my visit here, and this is where I wanted to be," Donnal said.
Saturday's game is more special for Donnal because of geography. But he said the mission is always the same, whether Iowa is playing Iowa State, Northwestern, or the Buckeyes.
"It's not that I want to beat (Ohio State) any more than I want to beat every other team, because it's all the same mentality," Donnal said. "It's special to go back home, play in the home state, and play in a place where it is a little more familiar to me."
The last time Iowa football traveled to Ohio State was Nov. 14, 2009, and the result was a 27-24 decision in favor of the Buckeyes. Donnal was a senior at Anthony Wayne High School then. The Hawkeyes went on to win the Orange Bowl that season and Donnal signed to become a student-athlete at Iowa.
Andrew's younger brother, Mark, added a new twist to the family feud when he accepted a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Michigan, an even bigger rival of the Buckeyes. The basement that once would have made Woody Hayes proud, has added maize and blue to the black and gold.
"We're all getting integrated into the dual-team household now," Donnal said. "We threw the whole family for a loop and got rid of all that (Ohio State) stuff. It's no good anymore."
Iowa looks to snap the Buckeyes' 18-game winning streak Oct. 19 with kickoff scheduled for 2:36 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised by ABC, with reverse mirror on ESPN2. The action will be called by Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich.