This is for Thursday’s paper:
CORALVILLE — Question the motivation all you want, but these guys are human. Iowa football players see what’s going on around them and they want to help.
“A couple of days ago, I was just driving around, no where in particular,” sophomore wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said, “and there were all these people, about 15, bagging sand. I just got out of the car and started to help them.
“I thought, if this was my house, I’d want people to do that. It goes a long way. It makes people feel good.”
In the wake of 17 arrests, including the alleged sexual assault arrests last month, Iowa football’s off-field image needs some work. Image didn’t seem to be the motivation for Dace Richardson, a senior offensive tackle who missed most of last season and whose career is in doubt because of a serious knee injury.
The 6-foot-7, 300-pounder sat on sandbags in Coralville on Wednesday afternoon. He held plastic bags while freshman defensive lineman Riley Reiff shoveled in the sand. When a van from Randy’s Furniture pulled up, Richardson grabbed four of the 40-pound bags and lugged them to the back of the truck.
“We know the image that’s out there, but that’s not our motive,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “We’ve had a couple incidents that don’t reflect who we are, our program and our coaches. They don’t reflect what we stand for.”
About 30 Hawkeyes and a few strength coaches helped fill sandbags at the Coralville Streets Department facility on Camp Cardinal Road on Wednesday. In May, coach Kirk Ferentz and 16 players traveled to Louisiana to help with continuing hurricane clean up efforts.
Also Wednesday, fifty others made a trip to Aplington-Parkersburg High School to help with the reconstruction of the school’s weightroom and a barn.
The sentiment is that football might help boost community pride.
“I’m from Iowa and I know all about Aplington-Parkersburg’s tradition,” said sophomore tight end Allen Reisner, a Marion native. “It won’t solve all the problems up there, but hopefully it’ll give people something else to think about for a little while this fall.”
At the Coralville site, the Hawkeyes joined about 100 volunteers. There was no glamour here. All the jobs came with a degree of grit and grunt.
Quarterback Jake Christensen stood with offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga and linebacker A.J. Edds on a mountain of sandbags, pitching them into a front-end loader that piled them into dumptrucks. Large construction trucks dropped off sand. Sandbags were trucked in and out of the place all day.
“It’s crazy how high it is now,” wide receiver Trey Stross said. “It’s only going to get higher.”
Iowa football is in its second week of summer conditioning drills. No one knew if any players have been affected by the flood. The majority of the players live on the west side of the Iowa River near Kinnick Stadium this summer.
The Hawkeyes had a 6:15 a.m. 7-on-7 practice Wednesday. They were supposed to be off the rest of the day.
No one complained.
“There’s a lot going on,” said sophomore defensive back Jordan Bernstine, who was starting to work on a pretty solid coat of sand on his legs and T-shirt. “We need all the help we can get. This stuff is a little scary. A lot of people have been through it, we’re about to go through it.”
Some of the players turned the sandbag brigade into a competition. Bulaga, a 300-pound O-lineman, seemed to be in the lead.
“A lot of the guys wanted to do this,” said assistant strength coach Raymond Braithwaite, whose calves were splashed with gray sand. “But no, this doesn’t count as a workout, even though it is going to be a pretty good workout.”
Iowa players showed up about 12:30 p.m. and expected to be there through the afternoon.
Not long after his arrival, Christensen was cornered by a woman volunteer. She wanted to know if the team was going to be good, and by “good” she meant behavior.
“You feel good doing something,” Reisner said. “You feel like you’ve done something, not just sitting around watching TV and being a lazy sack all day. You feel like you’ve done something to help people out.”
(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
ABOVE: Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen (right) and teammates load sand bags into a front end loader Wednesday at the Coralville Streets Department facility on Camp Cardinal Road. BELOW: Iowa Football wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos fills sandbags.