IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa football program has a distinct influence on the sport in Eastern Iowa.
Fans are obsessed with it, many young players aspire to wear Hawkeye colors one day, but a huge influence can be found just down the road at Iowa City Regina High School.
The Regals boast five former Hawkeyes on their coaching staff, including head coach Marv Cook, and have made an impact in a dominant season over Class 2A competition. Regina will try to complete a perfect season when it takes on North Polk (10-3) today in the 2A championship game, beginning at 1:05 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Currently, former Iowa players Ed Hinkel, Alex Kanellis, Jamey Murphy and Jason Dumont are on the staff. It is a resource that would be crazy to ignore.
“It works because a lot of guys stick around and stay in Iowa City,” Cook said. “They love football. They’re passionate about it. They’re great students of the game and they want to stay a part of it.”
Cook said sometimes he is contacted about interest in a former player wanting to coach and the staff reaches out to them. The former Hawkeyes mesh well together, because they share a same approach.
“The common theme is there’s a philosophy that Iowa football has a way of going about your business and taking care of things,” said Cook, who praised his other coaches including for University of Northern Iowa alum Mike Brinkman. “Those guys, during the different eras, there’s still a similar underlying philosophy on how to go about preparing and getting ready to play football.”
The Regals (13-0) have benefited from current Hawkeye players brought in by Kanellis and Murphy. Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn helped with strength and conditioning over the summer. A position that former Hawkeye and current Indianapolis Colts linebacker Pat Angerer held.
“They’re phenomenal,” said Cook, noting they would work with junior high kids early morning and high school players in the evening. “They do a great job.
“it’s a tribute to them and the character they have that they would commit their time and be that involved with it.”
Having a top college athlete reiterate what you are trying to instill in your players helps hammers it home.
“When they see Adrian Clayborn and he’s talking about the same things Coach Kanellis and Coach Dumont are talking about as far as the proper way to work out, train and take care of yourself, it adds that much more credibility to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Regals can see the product of the Iowa players’ work on Saturday’s against some of the nation’s top teams. Their presence commands their attention.
“It’s eye-opening to see how good those guys are and obviously you’re going to listen to those guys and what they have to say,” senior quarterback Jack Verducci said. “They’ve made us all a lot better.”
Few have been as good as Regina, producing one of the more dominant seasons in all classes. The top-ranked regals are third in 2A in total offense and lead the state in scoring and point differential.
“It’s been a dream season,” Verducci said. “It definitely goes back to our offseason workouts.”
Of course, Clayborn was there.
“I know all those guys, so it’s kind of fun to watch them play,” said Clayborn who has been on the Regina sidelines this season but is not interested in a career in coaching. “It’s nice seeing how hard they worked in the summer, watching it all pay off.
“They’re so physically and mentally stronger than everybody else.”
That’s most evident upfront where they all stand over 6-feet, and 225 pounds. The Regals are senior-dominated as well and have the experience and leadership for the title this class has wanted for a long time.
“It’s exciting,” Verducci said of being a win away. “All of us have thought about this day since we were in junior high.”
Regina handled No. 2 North Fayette, 35-7, in the semifinals. North Polk advanced with a 42-0 win over Sheldon to reach the title game. Cook was impressed with North Polk, which is much better and dangerous team than when it started the season 2-3.
“If we play up to our capability I really like our chances,” Cook said. “It’s a matter of doing that, playing well and taking advantage of opportunities when they do present themselves.”
Adrian Clayborn, Alex Kanellis, Class 2A state championship, Ed Hinkel, Hawkeyes, Iowa City Regina, Jack Verducci, Jamey Murphy, Jason Dumont, Marv Cook, North Polk, Pat Angerer, prep football, Regals, University of Iowa