By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Shortly after he had committed to the Iowa football team, Michael Lois would learn under horrible circumstances that his future team was firmly committed to him.
Lois had been committed to Iowa for barely two weeks when he dove from a trampoline into a friend’s pool and hit his head on the bottom of the pool.
Lois suffered three broken vertebrae in his spine and doctors feared that he would never walk again.
But Lois has since made a stunning recovery and he still is determined to play football for the Hawkeyes.
He was injured on Sept. 16th, but now just 10 months later, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Lois has full use of his extremities and is strong enough to have recently spent a vacation hiking on the mountains in Colorado.
Lois also has been medically cleared to play most sports again, but not football, much to his frustration.
He still feels some numbness in his left leg and has limited use of a finger on his right hand, but everything else feels normal.
“I feel like nothing even happened, said Lois, who is from Elkhorn, Wis. "I don’t get any real hard pain in my neck. I’m back to dead-lifting four-hundred pounds for five reps.
“They only problem I have is trying to find a doctor to sign off. They still think I’m a vegetable. And they’re going to have to kill me before I quit.”
But on the other hand, Lois understands why the doctors are so reluctant to clear him to play football.
“If I was the doctor I’d probably tell the kid the same thing,” Lois said. “But I’m not a normal kid. I’m never going to let somebody tell me no, and hearing no all the time is kind of heartbreaking.”
Lois was concerned after the injury occurred that it would cost him his scholarship to Iowa. He also felt guilty and shared those thoughts in a text message to Iowa assistant coach Tim Polasek shortly after the accident had occurred.
“I know I texted Tim and told him how sorry I was,” Lois said. “I just felt really guilty because it was like I was on cloud nine and then the accident happened.
“And I just told him please don’t take the scholarship away.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t take away Lois’s scholarship, and I would have been shocked and disappointed if he had.
That isn’t how Ferentz operates, and it was the same with his legendary predecessor at Iowa.
And I know that first hand because of what happened to my older brother, Frank Harty, in the fall of 1979.
My brother was a member of Bob Commings’ final recruiting class at Iowa in 1978. But my brother never had the chance to play for the Hawkeyes because his career was cut short by a staph infection in his knee.
What had started as a simple procedure to remove a bone chip in my brother’s knee almost cost him his leg. He still limps to this day and deals with persistent back pain due to having to compensate for his bad knee.
My brother spent most of the 1979 fall semester in the hospital fighting to recover and trying to come to terms with the devastating fact that his college football career was over before it had really even started.
My parents were scared and felt helpless because there was little they could do besides give love and comfort.
There was also concern that my brother would lose his scholarship, especially since Commings had been fired after the 1978 season and replaced by Hayden Fry.
My brother had participated in spring practice as a redshirt freshman under Fry in 1979, but that was the extent of their relationship.
But then Fry reassured my parents that he would honor my brother’s scholarship simply because it was the right thing to do.
To say that my parents were relieved by Fry’s act of kindness would be an understatement.
I still to this day remember both of my parents getting emotional after hearing that their son would be kept on scholarship. It was one of the few times I ever saw my father nearly break down.
My brother did his part to thank Fry by graduating from Iowa in three years with honors. My brother then graduated from law school and is now a successful lawyer in his hometown of Des Moines.
He probably still would’ve graduated from Iowa with honors and become a lawyer, even without being kept on scholarship because my brother usually accomplished whatever goals he set for himself.
But to be kept on scholarship made it so much easier for my brother to focus on his academics and for my parents to pay the bills.
My family experienced the human side of Hayden Fry and his kindness is something that we will cherish forever.
Kirk Ferentz is the same way when it comes to his players because they’re like family to him, just like they were to Fry.
Michal Lois didn’t just commit to a football program when he picked Iowa. He joined a family and a culture that will support him for the rest of his life.
Lois was the second player to commit to Iowa's 2020 recruiting class behind Texas quarterback Deuce Hogan. The class has since grown to 22 players and Lois considers the class to be his new family.
"I love my recruiting class," Lois said.
So even if Lois doesn't play football again, he still will be a part of the Iowa program in some role, and he will be on scholarship.
Family stays together during good times and bad times, and the Iowa football program is now family to Michael Lois.