Now that there were three authors on board to write What It Means to Be a Hawkeye, we had to work quickly to put our book together. Lyle Hammes, Michael Maxwell, and I needed to interview sixty former Hawkeye athletes, coaches, and administrators over the span of just a few months to have material for the book, and we needed to find a good way to divide that work between the three of us. Our solution was to conduct a fantasy football-style, former Hawkeye draft!
The Former Hawkeye Draft
Each of us took turns in the draft. When it was our turn to select, we named three Hawkeye athletes that we were interested in interviewing for the book. Once a player was taken by one of the three of us, that author had “dibs” on interviewing that Hawkeye.
I don’t remember the exact sequence of which Hawkeyes were selected where. I’m pretty sure I recall my picks, though. For my first round selections, I took Jack Dittmer, Ken Ploen, and Randy Duncan. That meant that I had first rights to interview each of those men for the book.
Obviously, I was ecstatic about my selections. I had interviewed Jack Dittmer already for Hawkeye Greats, By the Numbers. Dittmer played three sports at Iowa, earning nine athletic letters. Dittmer’s favorite sport was football, but he wasn’t big enough to pursue football professionally. Instead, he turned to baseball…and he played six seasons in the major leagues, mostly with the Milwaukee Braves. Dittmer was a second baseman and a teammate of future home run king Hank Aaron.
Ken Ploen was another of my first round picks. Ploen led the Hawkeyes to the first Rose Bowl victory in school history in 1957 and was named the game’s MVP. He then dominated the Canadian Football League, winning four Grey Cups as the quarterback of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
And what else can you say about Randy Duncan? Two-time Rose Bowl champion, Big Ten MVP, College Football Hall of Famer, and the #1 overall pick of the 1959 NFL Draft. Randy Duncan absolutely rewrote the Hawkeye record books in his three years at Iowa from 1956-1958, and the Hawks had a 24-3-2 record over that span.
Yep, I was thrilled about my first round selections…three great Hawkeyes!
The Draft Results
We continued to draft players three at a time, until each of us had around 27 players. Hammes, Maxwell, and I each needed to contribute about 20 chapters to fill out the book, but we drafted a few extra players to account for refusals and guys we just weren’t able to get a hold of.
It was interesting to look back at the draft results when it was all finished, because it really reflected our respective interests in Hawkeye football. I wound up mostly with players from the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, and 70’s, which made sense considering that I am a big fan of Iowa football history. Most of Hammes’ players were from the 1950s and 1980s, while Maxwell represented most of the players from the 1990s and 2000s.
Of course, actually contacting these athletes was one of the biggest challenges of the book. Most athletes have unlisted phone numbers, precisely because they don’t want to be contacted by fans like me! The three of us had to carefully network with other Hawkeye athletes to find the contact information for our draftees, and then we had to convince our draftees that they would be pleased with how their stories were ultimately represented in the book.
Somehow, some way, eight months later, we had a book finished that we could be proud of…a book that told the stories of sixty great former Hawkeyes in a unique and compelling way. And it was a fun, former Hawkeye draft that helped get us there.