Oct. 21, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kirk Ferentz, a former National Football League assistant coach, called on a current NFL assistant coach to be honorary captain for Saturday when the University of Iowa hosts Indiana in Homecoming football.
Ferentz, now head coach of the Hawkeyes, knows this week's honorary captain better than most; it is his oldest son, Brian.
"This program means a lot to me and having been a part of this program means a lot to me," Brian Ferentz said. "This is something that is very special to me and I take a lot of pride in. To be able to come back and address these guys and just try to share something with them is pretty special."
Brian, a center, played for the Hawkeyes from 2002-05 and was part of two Big Ten Conference championship teams (2002 and '04). During his tenure, Iowa played in the Orange Bowl, Capital One Bowl and the Outback Bowl twice. The Hawkeyes were 38-12 in the four years he was on the roster.
"Playing here is such a great experience and such a rare experience to play in a program like this where you can learn from guys who know what they're talking about," Brian said. "On top of that, they're invested in you and that's what catapulted into my professional career.
"The discipline I learned here, the work ethic from guys like coach (Chris) Doyle, coach (Reese) Morgan; obviously my father and I have a different relationship."
Brian played in the 2006 Hula Bowl all-star game before signing a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons (he played one season in the NFL). Brian is currently tight ends coach for the New England Patriots.
"Up in New England he was one of three guys with a desk out in the hallway, way down at the end of the hall and his job was to drive guys to the airport, pick this guy up, drop that guy off, do this, do that and all that kind of stuff," Kirk said. "Then he became a coaching assistant, which is like being a grad assistant in college. And then last year he was the tight ends coach, but didn't have a title. He broke all the film down, and then this year he's on vacation -- all he has to do is coach the tight ends; that's a pretty good deal there.
"My point is, he started and had to work and go through some hard times like everybody else."
Brian stressed the need for preparation and that all the Hawkeye players are fortunate to be part of the football program here.
"You don't realize how lucky you are until it's about over," Brian said. "It's kind of like a lot of good things in life -- they're over before you want them to be over and then you realize how good they really were."
Brian also reminded the group that it is guaranteed nothing, and the current student-athletes need to seize the opportunity.
"Being a champion is a lifestyle," Brian said. "It's how you do things every day; every decision you make goes into being a champion. You don't decide 30 minutes before kickoff, it doesn't work like that."
He challenged the current Hawkeyes to be a part about something that is bigger than the individual.
"The minute you embrace your role, that's when you're really part of the team," Brian said. "Pain, suffering and sacrifice is what it's like to be part of a team. Be excellent, don't be mediocre. Nobody can be perfect, but everybody can be excellent."
He then talked about his daily meetings with another former Hawkeye, Andre Tippett, who also works with the Patriots.
"There are a lot of us; there are a lot of former Hawks around who played in this program," Brian said. "One of them is in our building, a guy named Andre Tippett. He's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; every morning when he walks by my office, he says, `What's up, Hawk?' That's what it means to play here. It's special to play here."
Iowa and Indiana kick off Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT).