JOHNSTON, Iowa - The Iowa football program made its presence felt in Central Iowa on Saturday, and that was just one of the reasons Kirk Ferentz held a youth football camp at Johnston Middle School.
Ferentz also wanted to thank Hawkeye fans for their support by staging an event that would benefit children. And it seems to have been a huge success as nearly 400 kids in grades one through eight attended the first ever Iowa Youth Football Camp at no cost.
The camp also served as part of a Senior Project for the Iowa players.
"Basically, from January until August, the guys have opportunities to do things on their own that aren't mandated," Ferentz said to reporters after the camp. "But we've always mandated projects for each class. And up until this year, the Senior Project had been doing Camp Courageous. It was eigtht years ago, or nine years ago, we went up to Monticello and we all decided it would be better for the campers to come to our building and facilties. And they loved that.
"So that was last Saturday. We transitioned that to just a volunteer activity now and made this the Senior Project."
The kids participated in various drills while also receiving guidance, inspiration and instruction from a group of Iowa players that included senior defensive end Matt Nelson and senior defensive backs Brandon Snyder and Jake Gervase.
Ferentz also addressed the kids near the end of the camp and answered a wide range of questions.
This was a feel-good event for the children, but it also helped to promote the Hawkeye brand in Central Iowa at a key time.
With Iowa State on the rise under third-year head coach Matt Campbell, it is important for Iowa to make its presence felt in Central Iowa. Saturday's camp was held less than 30 miles from the Iowa State campus in Ames.
Iowa had previously held an open practice for the past several years at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines during spring practice, but that wasn't the case this spring.
So the youth camp was a different way for the Iowa football program to gain exposure in Central Iowa, and for the players to give back to the community.
"We just want the guys out doing things," Ferentz said. "It's good for their education."
Ferentz also addressed some football-related topics, including that he thinks Nebraska will soon be Iowa's regular opponent on Black Friday again. Iowa will face Wisconsin in the regular-season finale in both 2020 and 2021.
"After that, I think we're back together and I think it's maybe a long-term thing," Ferentz said of facing Nebrraska on Black Friday. "But I thought the last one was long-term, too. We saw how that turned out."
Ferentz also said Matt Nelson should be healthy by the start of the season after not participating in spring practice.
Listen to the entire Kirk Ferentz interview below: