Alumni Make Their Mark on UI Game Balls


When Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard drops back for his first pass of the season in September, he won’t be tossing just any old football.

Hidden inside the Hawkeyes’ Nike Vapor Elite game balls will be words of encouragement from Iowa alumni hundreds of miles away from Kinnick Stadium.

In May, members of the Dallas-Fort Worth IOWA Club toured a football production factory in their city as workers stitched together the balls that will be used by the Hawkeyes for practices and games during the upcoming season. Before the footballs were laced up, the UI supporters signed their names and wrote messages on the inside lining like “Go Hawks!” or “Go get ’em, C.J.!”

Ben Clark of Frisco, Texas, and his children Grace, 7, and Brady, 9, pose with Hawkeye footballs during a May tour of the Big Game USA factory in Dallas.

Club members also took part in a lighthearted “blessing of the balls,” in which they hoped for the health of the players and a successful season.

Dallas-based Big Game USA, which manufactures footballs for the majority of BCS teams, hosts several tours a year for alumni of the various schools for whom they supply balls. But no university group has drawn a bigger crowd than the Iowa alumni, who have toured the factory the past two years, said Cory Jensen, a sales representative for Big Game.

“When this place fills up with Iowa fans, it blows away every other party we’ve had,” said Jensen, a Parkersburg native who is a member of the IOWA Club.

Nearly 200 Iowa alumni, friends, and family attended the tour, where they watched Big Game production workers cut the leather panels, stamp them with the Nike and Tigerhawk logos, and then lace up the balls. Jensen said the company typically produces 200-300 footballs for each team it serves.

Kyle Wick, 09BA, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth IOWA Club, said while members toured the factory last year, May’s tour marked the first time they were able to visit on a day when the Hawkeye balls were actually being made.

Wick said with nearly everyone taking a turn with the Sharpie, there are nearly 200 footballs with personal messages heading to Iowa City this season.

“Everyone was really excited; they’re wondering whether their ball will be the one used in a touchdown pass in the Rose Bowl,” said Wick, a Mount Pleasant native. “But we also made the joke that if there’s a big fumble that costs us the game, we’re going to pop that ball and figure out whose name is inside.”

Despite living in the middle of Big 12 country, Wick said there’s a strong base of Hawkeye fans in the Dallas and Fort Worth area. His IOWA Club has nearly 500 active members and hosts football game watches at four different bars and restaurants on fall Saturdays.

“We’re wishing for another magical season like last year, so we’re hoping our blessing helps out,” Wick said.

—Josh O’Leary, Iowa Alumni Magazine


See how Big Game USA makes its footballs for the UI and other programs here:

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One Comment

  1. Amy B. Thomas
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink


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