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Column: Love and the game

Published: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 10:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 10:19 a.m. CDT

Iowa Hawkeye football has been a large presence in my life for as long as I can remember. My mom got my dad season tickets as a present early in their marriage, and they had those seats until I was in elementary school. It was a difficult decision to let them go, but Dad wanted more family time. So, he watched the games with all of us at home on Saturdays instead at Kinnick Stadium.

I remember each of us got to go to a game with Dad one of the last years he had the tickets. I was about 6 or 7 years old at the time. I don’t remember much about the game, but I remember spending time with Dad. It was my first time at Kinnick, but it was far from the last.

Even without the season tickets, we still went to a handful of games as we all got older. I honestly never kept track of how many games we attended. In 2010, my brother, James, and Dad decided to resume the Hawks season tickets tradition. They have seats they love, and I foresee them keeping them for many years to come.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have filled-in for both Dad and James when a prior engagement prevented them from attending a game.

I have superior bragging rights forever all because of the Iowa vs Pitt. game on Sept. 19, 2015. My brother had a friend’s wedding to attend, and I was the lucky one who took his ticket. No one could have known just how memorable that game would be. In the midst of the Hawks’ undefeated season, the score was tied 24-all with just seconds on the clock. It was all on the shoulders of kicker Marshall Koehn. As time expired, he kicked the 57-yard attempt dead-center of the uprights, winning the game in spectacular fashion. I captured a video of the moment and shared it on social media. Now, thanks to Facebook Memories, I get to relive the moment every Sept. 19.

I try to make it to Kinnick at least once a year now. My fiancé, Tim, and I decided to attend one game this year, picking the Minnesota game on Oct. 28. The whole family will be there plus my friend Kate.

Then fate intervened.

This past Saturday, my brother and his girlfriend, Ashley, were celebrating their one-year anniversary. He had decided to make it forever and bought an engagement ring she would absolutely love. The only issue was there was a home Hawkeye football game set for that afternoon. Ashley is almost as big a sports fan as James, so instead of missing the game, they planned to meet at The Iowa River Power restaurant following the game, and he would surprise her with the ring before dinner.

Then James had an idea to make the surprise even bigger by inviting both sides of the family to the restaurant to celebrate the occasion with the people they care about the most.

My mom, sister, brother-in-law, Tim and I all got tickets to the game, mostly to give us a reason to be in Iowa City as to avoid any slip-ups. As luck would have it, Ashley’s mom was offered four tickets to the game bringing Ashley, her sister, mom and aunt to Kinnick as well. The stars were aligning, it seemed.

The only monkey wrench was the game itself. Iowa was playing North Texas, and while they won, it was the strangest game I’d ever watched. To top it off, there were so many penalties the game seemed to last forever. Luckily, James called the restaurant and was able to move the reservation back.

After James and Ashley arrived at the restaurant, it became the magical moment he had planned — a romantic walk, just the two of them, on the footbridge overlooking the Iowa River, a “yes” from Ashley and a celebration inside the restaurant with loved ones. Forgotten was the strange game and delay. Ashley was surprised and ecstatic with all James did to make the occasion special. The happy couple was beaming throughout the entire meal. It was wonderful to be able to share in their joy.

We get to welcome another Hawkeye fan into the family, but more importantly, we gain a great person I can call another sister. Congratulations!

Contact Pam Rodgers at prodgers@newtondailynews.com

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