The Iowa football coach hadn't been here for Rose Bowl activities in 30 years. Saturday, he took time to enjoy the moment.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Absolutely, there’s a big football game for Iowa to try to win Jan. 1 against Stanford.
But Kirk Ferentz wants his players to accomplish more than that during this Rose Bowl trip.
Saturday, in particular, was about relishing the experience. The 17th-year Hawkeye head coach even took his own advice.
He shook “hands” with Mickey Mouse and genuinely seemed to enjoy himself in his first trip to Disneyland as a coach in 30 years. His primary memories from Iowa’s Rose Bowl experience in 1985, when he was half his age and an offensive line coach, were the bus rides.
Saturday, he made sure to soak in the sun and appreciate the fun.
“The best part about all this is just what it’s been like the whole season, to watch the players get rewarded for what they’ve done,” Ferentz said. “They’ve worked extremely hard. As coaches we get to watch that on a daily basis. The commitment, all the things that you hope for with a team, they’ve done it.”
Ferentz, 60, spoke while surrounded by thrill rides he said he wouldn’t partake in.
“I doubt it,” he quipped. “Not until the grandkids are old enough, then I’ll be back in that routine.”
His players, though, were ready to enjoy themselves Saturday afternoon.
“The first ride I’m going to is Space Mountain, that’s for sure,” said junior defensive back Greg Mabin, a Floridian who had been to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., but never Disneyland.
“This definitely isn’t Jacksonville,” Mabin added, referencing last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl. “There’s a lot to do in Los Angeles. We’re very grateful.”
Players were given a curfew of 1:30 a.m. to enjoy themselves. On Christmas Day, senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith took in the Clippers-Lakers night game at the Staples Center.
He explained Saturday that there’s more fun to be had after a good practice — and Iowa has had a few of them here already at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The team arrived Thursday.
“Practice has been going well. It leads to the rest of the day,” Smith said. “You have a good practice, you feel good about it, and you can enjoy your day.”
Good practices mean there’s good focus. Ferentz has noted throughout the season that this year’s team has been extremely disciplined each day when coming to work. And there are good signs brimming here, too.
“That’s the thing that is what we wanted,” senior running back Jordan Canzeri said. “The experience of coming down here, would it affect our play in practice? And it hasn’t. We’ve been doing really well.”
The Iowa senior running back was thrilled to be in this setting, six days before the Rose Bowl against Stanford. He also provided an update on his right ankle injury.
Just like the tens of thousands of Hawkeye fans that are about to descend on southern California, the players are here to celebrate something special.
They still understand the No. 1 priority, though: collecting a 13th win (and probably a top-five national ranking) to close a record-setting season.
Players have said all season the leadership is solid, and they’re taking steps to make sure no one gets sent home after a scrape with the law.
“We’ve talked to some of the police while we’ve been here. We know the spots to avoid,” Mabin said. “We know that we’re here on a business trip. We’re not going to get into the wrong type of activities. But we’re still going to enjoy ourselves. We’re still going to have fun.”