Kirk Ferentz says Iowa football's COVID-19 vaccination rate is climbing as season nears

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — After announcing at last month's Big Ten Media Days that "not quite 70%" of his players had been vaccinated for COVID-19, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said Friday that percentage continues to increase. 

Ferentz has received the vaccine but has not mandated his players to, continuing to say it's his players choice whether to do so. The education process has continued, though, as the Hawkeyes close in on their Sept. 4 season-opener against Indiana. 

"Our No. 1 priority continues to be educating our players on the protocols and what we all feel is probably in their best interest," Ferentz said during Friday's media day press conference. "A lot of guys have responded real favorably. When Sept. 1 rolls around, we'll still have guys who are in the process of getting vaccinated. We have a handful who are getting vaccinated (Saturday). So when September rolls around, we expect to be in a pretty good position. But it remains our players' choice." 

Even so, Ferentz stressed that any vaccination decision can affect the team as a whole. Vaccinated players are currently not subjected to contact tracing, which was what mainly kept various Iowa players sidelined throughout last season.   

"I'm sure there are more than this, but I've really only heard one person with a compelling reason to not (get vaccinated)," Ferentz said. "I'm not a big one for judging other people. 

"Where it's different for us is we're all involved with a team activity. It's kind of two-fold as I look at it. Whether you're a coach or a player, you only get limited opportunities. Players' windows are a lot smaller. That's pretty precious time, and to give it up ... for something likely avoidable, that's the deal.

"I realize nothing is foolproof with vaccinations. But I do know, at least at this point, if you're vaccinated, you're free from contact tracing. Which is huge."  

More:Leistikow: Predicting every Big Ten football team's record for the 2021 football season

Injury update

Ferentz said anyone currently dealing with injuries is expected to be ready for the season-opener, aside for one exception. Offensive lineman Kyler Schott will miss the first few weeks with a foot issue, after suffering the injury while baling hay last month. 

Schott, who was expected to start at right guard, is currently on crutches and is likely to return during "the first portion of the season."  

"He had a really good summer and unfortunately had an accident, a setback during the course of the week the guys had off," Ferentz said. "We started last Thursday. He was at home helping bale hay, and I think he's the first guy in my 23 years (of coaching) who got injured baling hay. Jumped off a bale and had a foot injury."     

More:Iowa football ticket sales 'very strong' ahead of season opener against Indiana; no change in mask policy

Leadership council announced 

Iowa announced its 16-person leadership council, consisting of six seniors and 10 juniors. The 2021 group consists of seniors Matt Hankins, Ivory Kelly-Martin, Jack Koerner, Schott, Caleb Shudak and Zach VanValkenburg, and juniors Dane Belton, Seth Benson, Jack Campbell, Joe Evans, Tyler Goodson, Sam LaPorta, Tyler Linderbaum, Kaevon Merriweather, Spencer Petras and Tyrone Tracy, Jr.   

The purpose of the group is "to assist in formulating policies and being involved in team decision-making throughout the year." Players were selected following coaching staff and player input.

More:Iowa ranked No. 18 in USA TODAY's preseason college football poll, highest since 2016

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 msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.