Meet Bob Morrow, a Hawkeye superfan who hasn't missed a home football game in 50 years
Bob Morrow has attended every Iowa home football game for 50 years, but he wants to clear up one misconception about his devotion.
Not every article of clothing he owns bears some Hawkeye insignia.
“I’d say it’s 90 percent,” Morrow claimed, contradicting information provided by his own son. “It’s just that every time I have a birthday or on Christmas, my family always gives me Hawkeye gear. I own so many Hawkeye sweaters, it’s crazy.”
Morrow, 68, will be in his usual seat in Row 68 at Kinnick Stadium again Saturday for the Hawkeyes' 11 a.m. homecoming game against Illinois. He and his wife, Sandy — they met as students at Iowa — will be decked out in Hawkeye apparel, continuing a tradition that began in 1967.
The Ottumwa native began his streak as a freshman pharmacy student. Back then, Morrow attended every sport he could, from gymnastics to wrestling to football. Sports were his release from the grind of his studies, he said.
Once Morrow graduated in 1972, moved to Illinois and opened a drugstore in the small town of Avon, he focused on football. The drive to Kinnick takes one hour, 57 minutes. Morrow has had plenty of time to calculate it.
“It was made clear to family members that there was to be no weddings, no operations, nothing in the family that would happen on a football weekend. If you wanted to plan any kind of event, you did it during the offseason or if you did it during the football season, you knew that I wouldn’t be there,” Morrow said.
He’s not joking.
He told his children, Dustin and Kacey: “You’d better not die on a home football weekend.”
Dustin was born during the 1974 football season.
“I really wasn’t needed there,” Morrow rationalized, referring to the delivery room. “My wife was the one that was needed there.”
Fortunately, Dustin arrived during the week. His father was in Kinnick that Saturday.
Once, Morrow’s niece was getting married in Illinois on a Hawkeye Saturday. She asked her uncle to be an usher. Would this be the end of the streak?
Iowa played a day game; the wedding was in the evening. Morrow made it to both.
“It’s not really been a goal as far as, ‘I’ve got to make it to Year 60’ or whatever,” Morrow said. “It’s just that I want to do it, and so I don’t miss a home game.”
Both of Morrow's children graduated from Iowa.
"For as long as I can remember, my dad has only worn Iowa Hawkeye clothing. I mean that literally," Dustin Morrow said. "There was never a question of where I was going to school, really."
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Kacey even ran track as a freshman walk-on at Iowa before concentrating solely on her schoolwork.
But that year provided Morrow’s daughter with a moment he could never claim.
“She got to meet Hayden Fry,” he said forlornly of the legendary former Hawkeye football coach, “and I didn’t.”
Morrow has two season tickets. Sandy is his most frequent companion, especially now that he’s retired. He started out on the east side of the stadium but didn’t like having the sun in his eyes during late autumn games. So he joined the Hawkeye booster club and upgraded to Row 54 on the 30-yard line on the west side. A decade ago, after a stadium renovation, the Morrows moved to the 48-yard line, just below the press box, high up so that they can watch plays develop.
His most memorable moments include the Nov. 21, 1981, victory over Michigan State that clinched Iowa’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 23 years. Fans were throwing roses off of the press box and stormed the field afterward, Morrow recalled. He did neither, but enjoyed it just the same and made sure to attend the Rose Bowl.
Then there was the Oct. 19, 1985, home win over Michigan, 12-10, on a last-second Rob Houghtlin field goal.
“You could just feel the happiness throughout the entire stadium,” Morrow said.
He’s sat through plenty of less auspicious moments, of course. Games played in downpours and snowstorms and ones that were so lopsided he could have left at halftime.
Morrow never does that, though.
“We don’t leave the game early regardless of the score or of the weather conditions, which my wife is not very happy about at times,” Morrow said. “I figure if the players are putting in the effort to play, the least we can do is watch the game in its entirety out of respect. It really irritates me when people leave early.”
Dustin Morrow remembers those long days in the stadium as well, how his father would quicken his pace on the way in and linger long after others had left.
"He's a very slow walker in general, except for the walk from the parking lot to the stadium. You could be at full sprint and not keep up with him," Dustin said.
"And then the Hawkeyes could be losing by 50 points and it could be 20 degrees below zero, and he'll be the last person in the stands."
Morrow was honored for his dedication to the Hawkeyes during the most recent home game, against Penn State on Sept. 23. The university showed a 1-minute video of pictures he provided, and Bob and Sandy got to walk onto the field to applause during a TV timeout.
It was a special honor for a special fan. Morrow thought back to how close his streak came to ending shortly after it began.
He contracted pneumonia one year while attending Iowa and was in the hospital when Minnesota came to Iowa City. The doctors weren’t going to release their patient just for a football game, especially since a snowstorm had just blown into town.
“I was able to get dressed and slip out of my hospital room,” Morrow said. “I watched the game and slid back into the hospital and got back in bed. They never even knew I was gone.”
Iowa lost that game, but the real winner was Morrow. His streak is still going strong — 51 seasons and counting.