Hayden Fry honored on 30th anniversary of ANF

Rick Brown
Hayden Fry is introduced at FRYfest at the Coralville Marriott on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Fry received a proclamation from Governor Branstad for his work with the America Needs Famers initiative, which began 30 years ago.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Hayden Fry, a walking, talking, 86-year-old legend, got another standing ovation Friday at FRYfest.

Fry became a state icon when he turned a dormant Iowa football program into a winner in his 20-year run as coach before retiring after the 1998 season.

"When I was a student, we didn't win many games," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, an alum, said Friday. "Thanks to Hayden Fry, we went to 14 bowl games in 20 years."

Branstad was on hand to read a proclamation honoring Fry to mark the 30th anniversary of America Needs Farmers. During the farm crisis in the 1980s, which collapsed commodity and land prices and bankrupted thousands of farmers, Fry came up with the ANF idea. Decals were put on the helmets of Iowa players as a way to recognize the struggling farm community.

"I knew I had to try and help them in some way," Fry said. "I had no idea putting the decal on the headgear of the Iowa player would have such an impact across the nation."

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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey also presented Fry with an award to say thanks for what he did.

"I was one of those young farmers in the 1980s, and I remember what a challenge that was," Northey told Fry. "I'm not sure it's possible to describe what putting the ANF decal on the helmets of your players meant."

In keeping with the theme of the day, Fry spun some stories of growing up on a farm in west Texas when he thought "anyone with a two-holer was wealthy."

Fry shared the dais with Branstad, Northey, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and J. Bruce Harreld, who was named the new University of Iowa president on Thursday. Harreld drew a smatter of boos when he said he was familiar with black and gold colors from his time at Purdue.

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"We will wear Iowa colors appropriately," Harreld said. "All I can say is, what an honor this is for coach Fry. What a legend. And 'Go Hawks.' "

Fry also gave Harreld a little advice.

"What you see is what you get in Iowa," Fry told him, boasting that Iowans were good, hard-working people.

"I loved every moment of my coaching career here," Fry said.