Hawkeye football players anxious to resume team activities

Iowa's athletes are staying ready in creative ways amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston tackles Northwestern quarter back Aidan Smith during a game against Northwestern at Ryan Field on Saturday, October 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 20-0. The Hawkeyes had a total of 63 tackles.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa defensive tackle Austin Schulte has spent the last four years working out in Hawkeye football facilities. Now, with organized team activities on hold in the Big Ten, he’s back to lifting in his garage.

Schulte built a weight bench and squat rack in the garage of his parent’s home in Pella, Iowa. He also installed a pull-up bar. Instead of Division I athletes, his workout partner has been his brother, a freshman in high school.

“It’s a little different going against your brother who is like 190 pounds versus [offensive tackles] Tristan Wirfs and [Alaric Jackson] last year,” Shulte said.

This is the new normal for the Hawkeyes. The University of Iowa campus shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many players were sent home. UI President Bruce Harreld said April 30 that the university was planning to resume athletic practices June 1. The Big Ten Conference announced May 4 that it was extending its suspension of organized team activities through at least that same date.

Coming off a 10-3 season that ended with a victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl, Iowa didn’t get a chance to start spring practices.

While Schulte returned to Pella, wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and defensive end Chauncey Golston have remained in Iowa City. Each player discussed on a Thursday video conference how they are staying ready amid uncertainty.

“You definitely find out your true colors and you find out how good you are at adjusting on the fly,” Shulte said. “When you don’t have any control over the situation that’s all you can do is make the best of a bad situation.”

Golston and his roommates, all Iowa football players, lift weights every day, following the workouts provided by strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Getting on a football field has been a bit more challenging.

Golston said they have tried working out at Iowa City West High School’s football field and then at Iowa City High. They were kicked off at both places. They then found a park, but the grass surface has proved to be difficult to work on.

“We never got kicked off, but it was grass, and then it started to rain more,” Golston said. “That wasn’t really productive, people started slipping and sliding more.”

Smith-Marsette has been working with Spencer Petras, Iowa’s expected starting quarterback, as well as other offensive players to try and make up what was lost with no spring ball.

“Just getting out there and making adjustments with each other and then telling each other what we like, what we don’t like — that’s how you get comfortable with somebody,” Smith-Marsette said. “And then once it’s time to come together again it’s going to be like a well-oiled machine. We’ll just be rolling.”

Hawkeye football players are anxious to return to the field as a team and get back in the Hawkeye weight room, but Golston said he does not want to be rushed back. His mother is a registered nurse who is working in nursing homes during the pandemic, ensuring the residents are taken care of. He said he understands the severity of the pandemic.

“Right now all I can think about is the well being of everyone else,” Golston said. “I want to be back, but I don’t want to be rushed back because you don’t want something else to pop up.”

When it is deemed safe enough for the team to be called back together, it will bring back a sense of normalcy.

“I can’t wait to be back with everybody,” Smith-Marsette said. “It’s going to feel good. It’s going to feel like a fresh first day of school, when you go to school after being off for a long summer. I can’t wait to see my friends, be able to be back with people that love the game of football.”

“Sometimes you wake up and without having a structured day, you’re like, ‘Do I actually want to go downstairs to my garage and lift?’” Golston said. “Yeah, I’m going to do it. But if I’m in a facility, there’s no asking myself if I’m going to do it. You have to do it. I really want to get back in there, be around my guys again.”

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