Although I had written articles for Wikipedia, I didn’t seriously consider writing a book until 2006. That year I stumbled upon an interview Lyle Hammes gave to Tom Kakert of, and my writing was about to go in a totally new direction.

Lyle Hammes’ Book Idea

Hammes told Kakert that he was working on a book with a clever concept.  His book, which he was calling “Hawkeye Heroes”, grouped the greatest Hawkeye football and men’s basketball players by the jersey numbers they wore at Iowa.  Hammes set out to select the best Hawkeye athlete to wear each jersey number from #1 through #99 and write a short bio on each athlete.  That was the book.

I thought it was a terrific concept.  However, in order to do it properly, the first thing you need is a list of all Hawkeye players and the jersey numbers they wore, going back as far as possible.  To my knowledge, no one had ever compiled such a list…not even the University of Iowa’s Sports Information Department.  Even worse, Hammes mentioned in the interview that the Sports Information Department told him Iowa football players first started wearing jersey numbers in “1938 or 1939.”

I knew this was completely wrong…I knew that Hawkeye football players in fact first began wearing numbers on their jerseys before the 1914 season.  (That’s one of those random facts about Hawkeye sports that I really have no business knowing.)  Hammes left his e-mail address at the end of the interview in case anyone had any comments, and I couldn’t help but contact him.

Lyle Hammes thanked me for the e-mail and told me that others had also mentioned that the SID’s info was incorrect.  I offered to help him research the jersey numbers worn by Hawkeyes of the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s.  A partnership had been formed.

Researching to Writing

After months and months of research, I found all of the older jersey numbers we were missing.  I found out that Aubrey Devine wore #1, Gordon Locke wore #2, and Duke Slater wore #15, among others.  I told Hammes that I felt Devine, Locke, and Slater should be considered the greatest Hawkeye at each of their numbers.  To convince him, I referred him to the Wikipedia articles I had written for these three men.

Lyle agreed with me, and the Wikipedia articles also showed him that I knew quite a bit about those players.  Since I had already written articles on Devine, Locke, and Slater for Wikipedia, Lyle Hammes asked if I would be interested in writing their bios for the book as well.  I had made the transition from researcher to co-author.  “Hawkeye Heroes” was renamed “Hawkeye Greats,” and I was working on my first book!

(Just as a post-script…our interest in researching Hawkeye jersey numbers convinced the Sports Information Department to compile a list of Hawkeye athletes and the jersey numbers they wore.  They now release this information in the teams’ media guides.  That list would have been handy when we were writing the book!  But it feels good to know we played a role in getting it out there.)

That’s the story of how I started down the path of being an author.  And I firmly feel that this journey has only begun.  Thanks for reading.

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