Time to say thanks
Time to say thanks
By Marc Morehouse
(Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cutline creditJim Slosiarek/The Gazette CutlineIowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes’ win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18 in Iowa City. Kroul and 15 other Iowa seniors will be recognized at the game today. Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes’ win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18 in Iowa City. Kroul and 15 other Iowa seniors will be recognized at the game today.
IOWA CITY — Good morning, John and Kaylene Kroul.
Hope you’re enjoying the brisk November hello here in Eastern Iowa. John, you probably aren’t, especially if you had any chores with the 150 or so cows on the family farm this morning. And yeah, Kaylene is probably right in there, too.
With 150 beef cows, baling hay, 525 acres, a pumpkin patch that produces 10,000 a season and three greenhouses where flowers grow, there’s always something. The farm doesn’t care it’s senior day.
It’s still harvest, so you might have hurried through the work with a little song in your hearts this morning.
You hopped in the truck and drove the 19 miles to Kinnick Stadium. Here you are, out on the field for the pregame ceremony. Your son, Matt, a defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes, is about to run out to you.
Kaylene, you’ll probably get a big hug out of the deal. John, Matt predicted maybe a strong handshake. Maybe.
“I’m sure mom will be bawling,” Matt said. “I’m not sure what dad will be doing. He’s not one to show much emotion. But you never know what’s going to happen this weekend.”
The moment will last 30 seconds, give or take. The next proud family will be waiting behind you guys. Another son will jog out of the tunnel. Another Hawkeye will soak in his final home game.
It lasts 30 seconds, if you’re lucky. Of course, that can’t measure what it took to build up to this.
Matt Kroul is a stoic’s stoic. He’s as straight forward as a row of corn. He has the kind of personality that lingers more on the mistakes than the triumphs. Maybe it’s been said. Maybe it hasn’t.
Out in the garden, Kaylene has gotten the occasional hug out of nowhere.
“I asked, what was that for?” she said. “And he’d say, well just because.”
When he was a freshman and sophomore, Matt sent her cards. Those have evolved into Friday night text messages.
“He has little ways of saying things,” Kaylene said. Said John, “Oh yeah, he’s real talkative.”
Maybe it’s been said, maybe it hasn’t. But you should know, John and Kaylene, that your son appreciates everything. He wants you to know he couldn’t have done this without you.
“In a way, I can’t say thanks enough to them,” said Kroul, a fifth-year senior and a four-year starter at defensive tackle. “They kind of let me have the sporting life I had growing up. They didn’t force me to stay on the farm and do this or do that. Wake up at five. They let me have sports first.”
“Sports first” included youth baseball and the 80 or so games that soaks up during the summer. For Kroul, it also included youth wrestling meets. Father and son always had football together. John has been an assistant at Mount Vernon High School for years.
“I hope my parents know they have my gratitude,” said Matt, who’ll tie Iowa’s record for starts with his 48th today. “It all kind of comes down to a finale with that run out on Kinnick. You can’t say thanks enough. It’s been awesome what they’ve helped me accomplish and allowed me to do.”
Iowa football is married to Iowa farm kids. Iowa’s roster will have that from here to eternity.
Kroul lives and breathes the Iowa farm kid ethic. He knows it’s a stereotype, but it doesn’t stop him from showing his teammates what it means.
“I’ve never missed a workout. I made it to every class that I could. I’ve never made an excuse for anything,” said Kroul, the Kroul family’s first college graduate (he’s working on a master’s degree in public health). “I just came to work everyday, no matter what we were doing. I, hopefully, had a good attitude and brought some excitement to whatever we were doing, even if you didn’t agree with what you were doing or if it stunk.
“I just brought a good attitude and worked my way through it. I tried to show some kids who were maybe brought up a little differently than I was. I tried to show how we go about things and tried to show them what it’s all about. If you want use the label of ‘Iowa farm kid,’ that’s probably about it.”
But in the same thought, Kroul will say he hasn’t done enough farming to earn “farm kid” status. He mowed, baled hay and split wood. He worked the pumpkin patch with his stepbrother, Adam Flockhart. The pumpkin crop was started some 20 years ago with thoughts of it paying for college. The full-ride from Iowa came, so that money went to the greenhouses.
“I’m sure I could’ve added a lot more to the family farm than I did,” Matt said. “I’m always thinking about that. I’m not really a farm kid because sports were so involved in my life.
“I don’t know some of the things that I think most farm kids would know, just because dad did everything and he did everything he could so I could have a bright future.”
Matt talked about his dad sacrificing college to help his grandfather, Howard, on his farm. You will chuckle at that, John. What some people call “sacrifice,” the lifelong farmer will call “work.”
“No, there was no sacrifice,” John laughed. “I knew what I wanted to do.”
John had the philosophy, “We thought let them be kids when they’re kids. They have the rest of their lives to work. And now, our philosophy is go somewhere and make a lot of money and come back and farm after you make money.”
That is the plan for Matt. He’s going to give everything he can to make it in the NFL. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, he’ll happily go back to the farm.
“Dad’s getting a little old,” he joked. (Actually, dad need some help with an escaped bull during the floods this summer. Of course, Matt helped run it down.)
You know an Iowa football parent because of “the button.” They all wear a button with a picture of their Hawkeye.
John, you’ll say it’s a “mom thing,” but that it’s OK. Matt wants his mom to wear it with pride.
Kaylene, when you put that button on your coat, know it means a lot to your son.
n Contact the writer: (319) 398-8256 or email@example.com
(Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes’ win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18 in Iowa City. Kroul and 15 other Iowa seniors will be recognized at the game today.