Behind the scenes before an Iowa football game
IOWA CITY, Ia. - Carl Davis wasn't an AC/DC fan growing up in the Motor City. He was, and is, a jazz guy.
"We used to play AC/DC in gym class, when we played dodge ball," the Iowa football star from Detroit says. "But it really didn't stick with me until I got here."
Now, AC/DC's "Back in Black" pulsates from Kinnick Stadium's sound system when coach Kirk Ferentz leads his team from the locker room to the field.
Fans watch the journey on the stadium's scoreboard.
"It sends chills down your spine, every time," says Davis, a defensive lineman.
Davis says he's calm and relaxed as Ferentz gives his final speech before the team takes the field. Then?
"I start to lose it once I get to the tunnel," Davis says.
Emotion will play a huge factor when Iowa State visits Iowa Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. What's it like in the minutes leading up to kickoff?
Every player has his own story.
The senior linebacker from Sicklerville, N.J., listens to calming music 15 minutes before the game.
"You're just looking at your teammates, looking into their eyes, seeing if they're ready," Alston says.
Things change when the team reaches the tunnel to the field.
"The switch comes on, and everybody's angry," Alston says.
The blaring music, and the crowd, only increase the blood pressure.
"You can hear them banging on the pads on the side of the stadium," Alston says. "You can actually feel the ground rumble a little bit, too. Your heart starts to race. You start to sweat. It's a pretty amazing thing."
Silence greets Ferentz as he walks in front of his team to deliver his final pregame speech.
"You can hear a pin drop," said Rudock, Iowa's starting quarterback. "Everyone is focused, listening to what he has to say. He gives us some quick notes and keys."
As soon as Ferentz finishes, some players are hyped and jumping around. Others, like Rudock, keep an even keel.
"I'm pretty calm," the junior from Weston, Fla., says. "That's just my demeanor. A businesslike manner. We have a job to do. Some guys are hyped, and that works for them. For me, I'm a little more relaxed."
The junior running back leans on his faith to prepare for games.
"I pray, and I write a new or favorite Bible verse on my wrist," Canzeri says. "That gives me peace and relaxes me before the game, because I have trust in what's going to happen."
Canzeri will look at the verse on his wrist just before Saturday's kickoff at sold-out Kinnick Stadium.
"The stadium is awesome, and it's really exciting," the native of Troy, N.Y., says. "Walking down the tunnel with your brothers, your family, as a group. It's something that definitely gets you amped for the game."
Growing up a Hawkeye fan in nearby West Branch, Bower recalls watching his favorite team emerge from the tunnel.
"That was the bomb," he says.
Now he experiences the booming beat of "Back in Black" from a different perspective. The redshirt freshman is a starting linebacker for the Hawkeyes.
"It's a feeling that you'll never experience anywhere else," Bower says.
The senior tight end from Strongsville, Ohio, tries to relax with a businesslike approach as Ferentz speaks. Then the mood changes.
"Once you hear him say, 'Let's go get 'em', you just get fired up," Hamilton says. "I'm ready to run through the wall. The juices are flowing, and you're ready to rumble."
Hamilton tries to describe the feeling of the moments before kickoff.
And he does, in one word.
"Goosebumps," Hamilton says. "That's the best way I can describe it. You're about to go into battle with some of your closest friends, with 70,000 fans who have your back. It's just unbelievable."
Iowa's leading receiver tries to keep his emotions in check before a game.
"How excited you are coming out doesn't determine how you'll play," says Martin-Manley, a senior from Pontiac, Mich. "The game takes a lot of mental focus and energy, and you don't want to waste too much of that before a game."
The trip down the tunnel does get Martin-Manley's motor running.
So does a Hawkeye staple: The Swarm. Dozens of black-and-gold-clad Hawkeyes take the field in a pack, together, ready to play 60 minutes of football.
"That's one of the most electric feelings, coming out in the swarm at Kinnick Stadium," Martin-Manley says. "That's definitely one of the best parts about playing football here at Iowa."