Graduate decal on Hawkeye football helmets highlights academic success

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Two tiger hawks. ANF. The helmet safety warning sticker. The player's numbers. And, now, the graduate.

The graduate decal, represented by the traditional cap-and-tassel mortarboard, is new to the helmets of players for the University of Iowa's football program who have already completed their undergraduate degrees (John Campbell/KCRG)

The graduate decal, represented by the traditional cap-and-tassel mortarboard, is new to the helmets of players for the University of Iowa's football program who have already completed their undergraduate degrees.

"Paul Federici brought it to us. I believe it was Clemson, he noticed, they did it on their helmets, and said 'what would you think about it?'" Kirk Ferentz, Iowa head football coach, said. "I said, it's a wonderful idea. How can you not celebrate what some guys have done in the classroom?"

Ten players on the team have the mortarboard decal on their helmets this year.

"It does mean a lot, you know," Levi Paulsen, senior offensive lineman, and double major, said. "I think it's pretty cool the coaching staff did that this year, because that also is a lot of hard work and sacrifice like collegiate football."

Paulsen, from Moville, was named to the academic all-Big Ten teams for each of the three seasons previous to this one.

"[The coaches] preach about it all the time," John Milani, senior defensive back and health and human physiology major, said. "Just putting it on the helmet further proves how important it is to our program."

Milani, like Paulsen, was named to two academic all-Big Ten teams.

"They talk about being a champion in the classroom, on the field, and as a citizen," Nate Wieting, senior tight end and biochemistry major, said. "A lot of guys on the team have been able to do that."

Wieting matched Paulsen's three-time mark on the academic all-Big Ten teams, along with earning the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award during the 2017 season.

These three players, along with seven others, have been able to make it big both on and off the field. Earning degrees while playing Big Ten football isn't the easiest way to a college degree, and it requires hard work and focus on multiple things at once.

"I think that nose to the grindstone mentality, never letting your foot off the gas is really what drives us," Paulsen said.

The decal may be small, but the message it represents is large.

"I think it’s a neat thing, any time you reach that milestone, college graduate, that’s a big deal," Greg Morris, athletic equipment manager for the program, said. "It’s an important thing to anybody who has gone through it. I think it’s just a nice way of letting people know that ‘I’ve done it,’”

The Hawkeyes have one more home game this year, on the road against Nebraska on Friday, November 29.