Guidance, reassurance emerge from Iowa football's networking event
IOWA CITY, Ia. — One by one, Iowa football glory past and present walked through the Stew and Lenore Hansen Football Performance Center. Smiles beamed — at both the surrounding nostalgia and the opportunity ahead.
Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes hosted their fifth annual Networking Night Thursday, an event that blends current and former Iowa football players together on the basis of peeking at the future. Around 30 alums and essentially the entire 2019 squad mingled for an evening of guidance and reassurance.
One could find a wide range of occupational advice. From wealth management and engineering to high school athletics and real estate, Iowa’s previous football stars have ventured far and wide with their playing days completed. Some delayed their common-man futures with professional football runs. Others needed a career seconds after their final Hawkeye snap.
For the first time in the event’s short history, media members were invited to attend portions of the evening. The theme Thursday night: Playing days end for everyone, but options for a successful life do not.
“If you’re going to play football for the next decade, that’s fine and dandy. But at some point — if you’re lucky, it’ll be in your 30s. Maybe if you’re kind of lucky, it’ll be in your late 20s like me. Or maybe it’ll be next year. — your career’s going to be over,” said former Hawkeye Anthony Herron, who’s transitioned from NFL defensive lineman to Pac-12 football analyst and Chicago sports radio figure after retiring in 2007.
“You’re going to want to maximize whatever you developed while you’re here as much as you can.”
Among those receiving advice Thursday, most who met with the media afterward said their post-playing plans aren’t cemented. Perfectly reasonable for 18- to 22-year-olds still soaking in collegiate football fun. Many of Iowa’s former players in attendance admitted to similar thoughts during their playing days.
Which is precisely why Ferentz held this event. Hearing stories and journeys — often circuitous — of how Hawkeyes transitioned to the real world provided comfort for those up next.
“Everyone who I met with, I asked, ‘Did you see yourself doing this when you were in my position?’ And they were like, ‘You know, no.’” junior running back Toren Young said. “A lot of former players talked about how the path is never straight. You may come into something with the mindset that you want to do medical sales — and then you end up doing something completely different. And that’s fine.
“Or some guys talked about wanting to do a certain thing — then they do it — and find out they don’t like it, or it wasn’t the right situation for them. Just hearing that is reassuring, to know that it’s OK not to have every detail figured out right now. The key thing is to utilize your resources here.”
Being a Hawkeye gives you plenty.
“That’s what a lot of these guys were talking about here,” senior tight end Drew Cook said. “We have a huge advantage with the network of alumni who are willing to help us. It’s something that not everyone has. Iowa football is like a fraternity. Everyone is willing to help you.”
Ferentz shared a story illustrating exactly that.
Still searching for his post-playing passion, ex-defensive end Louis Trinca-Pasat came through Iowa City last August and then again for Reese Morgan’s retirement party. He linked up with various former Hawkeyes, hoping their wisdom and guidance would stick.
Trinca-Pasat got connected with former offensive lineman David Porter, now a thriving real estate agent in Trinca-Pasat’s hometown of Chicago. Ferentz said the latter is mentoring the former with much success.
“The best part about it — David was 2002, Louie was 2014 — they had never met,” Ferentz said. “They met through older players, putting them in touch with each other. It took a while, but that’s a great illustration of how things can work and how hopefully it will work. Guys helping each other out.”
Every interaction won’t unfold like that, but Ferentz knows all involved take something away from Iowa’s networking evening.
Although the event hasn’t been around long, it’s clear it isn’t going anywhere.
"Probably of all the things we've done in the last 20-plus years, this event continues to give us the best feedback," Ferentz said. "Our players enjoy it. It has been a good deal, a good initiative."
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.