Dec. 30, 2013
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Glen S. from Fairbank, Iowa, was trying to blend in at Clearwater Beach Day on Monday, but he was still hard to miss.
Decked out in an authentic Iowa men's basketball jersey worn by Chris Kingsbury, black and gold-striped shorts, and flip-flops adorned with Tiger Hawk logos, Glen's loyalty would never be challenged on the white sand beach.
"I will never miss (a Hawkeye bowl game) until I kick off," he said. "This is the best down here on the beach; you don't have to shovel sunshine. This is where to have it -- and no purple people (Louisiana State University fans). The Hawks bring it strong everywhere they go."
Glen is saving his grand entrance for New Year's Day when the Hawkeyes (8-4 overall) play No. 14 LSU (9-3) in the Outback Bowl in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Glen will dress in a Hawkeye tuxedo and paint his beard black and gold.
He wasn't the only person at the five-hour event sporting his true colors. So was Hawkeye Elvis, also known as Greg S., formerly of Ogden, Iowa. He, too, noticed a huge disparity between fans wearing University of Iowa school colors and the purple and gold of LSU.
"This is the way we travel; this is the way we do bowl games at Iowa," Greg said. "We travel to road games, we pack Kinnick Stadium and when it's bowl season in Florida we bring them down."
Hawkeye Elvis was invited to say a few words on stage and he told the crowd that Iowa was going to beat LSU like a bunch of hound dogs and send them to heartbreak hotel.
"This is the way we travel; this is the way we do bowl games at Iowa. We travel to road games, we pack Kinnick Stadium and when it's bowl season in Florida we bring them down."
Greg S. from Ogden, Iowa
aka Hawkeye Elvis
Beau B. of Des Moines, Iowa, was playing sand chess against his brother. This is the sixth bowl trip for the 26-year old. He is intrigued by the Big Ten Conference-Southeastern Conference rivalry, and indicated he is a bit -- let's just say fed up -- with hearing about the strength of the SEC.
He would have welcomed a chess challenge from anyone from LSU, but he couldn't see many supporters wearing purple on the beach.
"I'm not sure they could keep up," Beau said, launching a pregame salvo to the Tiger faithful.
At 10, Seth W. of Knoxville, Iowa, was a member of the younger generation enjoying fun, sun, and the Hawkeyes. A big fan of Jake Rudock (Kevonte Martin-Manley and Mark Weisman are a close 2-3 on his list), Seth was spending most of his time running routes while his father passed him a football.
"I'm a really big Hawkeye fan -- live and die," Seth said. "I like playing catch with my dad and here I can dive."
A sister act of Lori M., Lou S., and Gail F., from Earlham, Earlham, and Adel, Iowa, came to the beach wearing matching black and gold scarves, It is a move they said helped bring a little bit of home to Florida.
"We were born Hawkeyes and this is a great bowl," Lori said.
"We have the best fans in the country," added Gail.
Jeff S. from Davenport, Iowa, makes an annual trek with his wife Chris to Clearwater Beach in March. This is his first Beach Day experience, thanks to Winebrenner Red Carpet Travel.
"It's great being around all these Hawkeye fans, family and friends," Jeff said.
Midway through the festivities, UI head coach Kirk Ferentz arrived, followed soon after by a majority of the Hawkeye players. Dave S. of Des Moines is an educator in Guthrie Center. He enjoyed a handshake and brief visit with UI senior linebacker Christian Kirksey.
"It's neat to watch them play games, but to meet them personally is even better," Dave said. "I coach, too, and I know what it takes for kids to reach that level and accomplish their goals. I enjoy watching their accomplishments -- Go Hawks!"
The marquee competition will take place on a football field in two days, but the UI cheerleaders gave the Hawkeyes an early edge by sweeping a tug-o-war completion against their LSU counterparts. UI spirit coordinator Gregg Niemiec borrowed a rope from UI strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and the Hawkeyes practiced for the competition for weeks leading up to their trip down south.
"This is a dream trip to come down and support the Hawkeyes in Tampa Bay," said Hannah Bray, a junior on the UI cheerleading squad. "We are so lucky to have such great opportunities like this."
"It's a good win to start our week off," Niemiec added. "On Wednesday we'll get another one from our football team."