LOS ANGELES – If Wednesday’s Hawkeye Huddle is an indication, Iowa fans are poised to take over the Rose Bowl on Friday.
The event still was more than an hour from starting when fans began arriving at the downtown Los Angeles Convention Center in droves. Most of them were dressed in either black or gold and it was virtually impossible to find anybody who wasn’t wearing some kind of Hawkeye attire.
Some fans took it a step further by wearing Hawkeye-related costumes. One man came dressed in a Darth Vader mask under a Hawkeye helmet. He also wore a black cape and a suit with black, gold and white squares.
You could feel the Hawkeye pride inside the massive room as approximately 20,000 Iowa fans celebrated their team’s historical season, which will conclude on Friday against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Iowa City native Andrew Hawtrey, who now lives in North Hollywood, Calif., attended the two-hour event with his wife and two children. Hawtrey works as an actor and you might know him as the star of All State’s successful ad campaign from several years ago or from the hilarious clips found on Bergwood.net.
Born and raised in Iowa City, Hawtrey is also an avid Iowa football fan. So when the Hawkeyes were selected to play in the Rose Bowl, he wasted no time purchasing tickets.
“My wife will confirm this, but I screamed with a very high pitch as my daughter said go get tickets now dad,” Hawtrey said Wednesday. “And so I started the ball rolling.”
Hawtrey was devastated after Iowa’s 16-13 loss to Michigan State on Dec. 5 in the Big Ten Championship game.
His mood quickly changed, though, after seeing the Rose Bowl matchup between his beloved Hawkeyes and Stanford.
“The whole being bummed out about the Big Ten championship evaporated pretty quickly with that,” Hawtrey said.
Hawtrey moved from Iowa City to Los Angeles in April of 1995 with a dream to make it as an actor. It’s a dream shared by thousands of people from all walks of life, but only a select few actually have success.
Hollywood can be a lonely and cruel place, but Hawtrey is one of the few who made it. He isn’t a household name, but his face is highly recognizable, mostly because of all the commercials he has done.
“I just came out here with a dream,” said Hawtrey, who graduated from City High. “I had a few friends that lived here, so it would help me to stay at somebody’s place on their couch for a few days while I found an apartment. But that was about it. Then it was just a matter of start working.”
Hawtrey’s 12-year old daughter, Charlotte, is used to seeing her father on television, so it’s usually not a big deal anymore.
“Once in a while, it’s like, `hey, that’s my dad,”’ Charlotte said. “And then other times, it just like, `oh, I’ve seen this before, whatever.”’
Hawtrey had two goals when he moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago.
“To be a working actor, one, and two, for the Hawks to go to the Rose Bowl,” Hawtrey said. “Now I’ve accomplished both.”
Fellow actor and comedian Tom Arnold also attended the Hawkeye Huddle on Wednesday and addressed the fans like only he can. Born and raised in Ottumwa, the 56-year old Arnold took the stage and worked the fans into a frenzy with a mix of humor and Hawkeye love.
There also were a number of former Iowa players who attended the event, including Davenport native Marques Simmons, who now lives near Detroit.
“I’m probably the biggest Hawkeye fan in southeastern Michigan,” said Simmons, a former running back. “A lot people gave me a lot of (grief) this year because Iowa doesn’t play anybody. But you know what, that’s the schedule they gave us. We’re playing the best on the schedule that we can play.”
Simmons said he watched the Big Ten Championship game with several Michigan State fans.
“It was two evenly matched teams,” said Simmons, who played at Iowa from 2004-05 after transferring from Nebraska. “Michigan State got it at the end. But we gained a lot of respect for it. I think the country gained a lot of respect for us as well. And that’s why we’re here today.”
The former Iowa players were introduced one by one on stage, with each getting a rousing ovation from the fans. Simmons was joined on stage by former receiver Ramon Ochoa, former running back Nick Bell, former quarterback Matt Rodgers, former defensive lineman Anthony Herron and at least a dozen more former players.
Herron is in his third year working for the Pac-12 Network as a studio host. He also played his last two seasons at Iowa in 1999 and 2000 with Kirk Ferentz as his head coach.
Herron sees a lot of similarities between Ferentz and Stanford head coach Davis Shaw.
“It’s eerie,” Herron said. “I’ve been talking about the comparison between these two guys for a long time. I’m very happy that it’s going to play out on the field.
“It’s fun for me just getting to watch them both so closely and knowing both coaches fairly well at this point.”
A native of Bolingbrook, Ill., Herron is married and now lives in downtown Chicago. The Pac-12 Network flies him out to the West Coast every week during football season.
Herron thinks the Rose Bowl has a chance to be a classic matchup between two similar and evenly matched teams.
"I think each team is stylistically similar at so many positions," Herron said.