IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s not the only rule in the Pekar home, but it is a prominent one.
“We are not Badger fans,” said Jim Pekar, the former Iowa defensive lineman. “I do not allow those colors in my house.”
So it became that his son Peter grew up in the only black and gold home in his Wisconsin neighborhood. That rule would help guide Peter Pekar to where is today — on the Iowa football roster.
And it’s because of that upbringing that the Hawkeyes’ home game with No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN) is different from others for the walk-on junior tight end.
“It adds a little bit more spice,” Peter Pekar said.
It’s been that way for the family since Jim Pekar transferred to Iowa from Ellsworth College. He played for the Hawkeyes from 1980-81. Back then, Wisconsin was the biggest rival for Iowa. It’s stayed that way for the last three decades.
“I don’t have any love at all for the Badgers,” Jim Pekar said.
Peter Pekar was baptized in Iowa football from birth. His father has held Hawkeyes season tickets since his playing days. He’s as familiar with Kinnick Stadium as the family living room.
Inside that living room, like the rest of the Pekar house, it’s all Iowa. Outside in Greendale, Wis., it’s all Badgers. It was a lonely existence for the Pekars in an ocean of red and white.
“Pretty much everybody was a Badger fan growing up,” Peter Pekar said. “Everyone from my friends, family, so yeah, basically my family was the only Hawks fan in the state.”
It was something he relished, especially after an Iowa win. Being the only one in school in a Hawkeyes shirt the following Monday brought out a little bit of family pride.
“I liked it,” Peter Pekar said. “You had the bragging rights for a year.”
Iowa became a family tradition. His dad went there. His sister, too.
Peter Pekar had the opportunity to play on scholarship at Western Illinois, but he passed. He wanted to be a Hawkeye, even if it meant walking on.
“There really was only one choice,” Jim Pekar said.
Only one uniform Peter Pekar wanted to put on, even if it potentially meant less playing time than his other college options.
“I didn’t want to regret taking a scholarship to a smaller school and thinking what could have happened,” Peter Pekar said.
Jim Pekar helped coach his son in high school. He knew Peter was smart and could play assignment sound football. Those are two traits Iowa covets. Jim felt his son just needed a little time to put on weight and get faster.
“He is one the coaches kind of realize, hey, he doesn’t make mistakes,” Jim Pekar said.
Sure enough, strength and speed developed — the Iowa coaching staff saw what father had taught son.
Peter Pekar slowly started carving out a role for the Hawkeyes. He played in one game in 2015 and has worked himself into the backup tight end role this season. Playing in all seven games for Iowa (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), he has primarily been used to help clear rushing lanes for running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels.
“Pete is a good player,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “He does a great job in the run game blocking.’
This Saturday, he may be asked to do more against the Badgers (4-2, 1-2). Starting tight end George Kittle may not play.
A more prominent role against the team the family grew up disliking with the rest of the clan watching from the stands may be as close to football heaven as it gets for the Pekar family.
Peter Pekar is downplaying his specific role in the game, but not the importance of this contest for a team trying to win the Big Ten West Division for a second straight season.
“More than ever everyone is going to need to step up,” Peter Pekar said. “Each week the games get tougher and everyone is going to have to do their part.”
That includes avoiding wearing red and white this week. It doesn’t matter what state the Pekars are in. Family rules are family rules.
“The rivalry was big back in the ’80s and it is still today,” Peter Pekar said. “I never really grew up admiring the Badgers.”