Former Hawkeye Matt Purdy reminisces about carrying Hayden Fry off the field

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 5:53 PM CST
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Matt Purdy's basement is loaded with memorabilia from his Hawkeye playing days. On a shelf sits an Iowa helmet, a decorated semi-truck, and above it, the picture.

"This is the one." Purdy says, staring at the photograph of his hoisting his head coach Hayden Fry.

Purdy read aloud the message written on the picture. "To Matt Purdy, one of my all-time favorite players, Hayden Fry."

Purdy played guard at Iowa from 1992 through 1995 and also served as a team captain. As a senior at Cedar Falls High School, he was entertaining offers from Wisconsin and Nebraska, then Hayden Fry walked into his house.

"I think about Hayden sitting down in my living room, crossing his legs and seeing the black boots with the tiger hawk in the middle. The rose bowl ring, the gold nugget bracelet. this is the guy!" Purdy said.

Purdy canceled visits to Wisconsin and Nebraska and went on to a successful career at Iowa. At the end of his sophomore season, the Hawks were facing Minnesota.

"We knew coach was coming up on the 200th victory." Purdy said. "We made a special effort to go out and get it and be part of something so historic."

Coach Fry's security guard Ron Stewart quickly gave his input on the planned celebration.

"He looked at Parker and I and said, you can't dump water on coach. You will give the old man a heart attack." Purday said. "So we re-evaluated what we were going to do, let's pick him up and give him a ride."

That's exactly what Purdy and Parker Wildeman did.

"It was kind of surreal feeling knowing you had the guy responsible for your success and knowing what he meant to all of us and how proud he was being up there, he was a little embarrassed.." Purdy said.

That moment was 26 years ago, and was brought into Hawkeye fans' and former players minds when coach Fry passed away last December.

"I remember sitting there with tears in my eyes and thinking about what a great man he was and there was a little bit of regret." Purdy said. "I had wanted to find time to go down and sit with him and just reminisce, listen to stories and some of {his) bad jokes."

A regret? Absolutely. But Matt Purdy also has a memory that few others have. That moment, Purdy, Parker Wildeman, and the coach, frozen in time by the camera shutter.

"To be a part of history with coach. knowing now he is gone. It is something I will never lose."