Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2017 signees. Land of 10 Iowa writers Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse are visiting the Iowa incoming freshman class to show you more than 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. Each week, Land of 10 will introduce the Iowa fan base to one of the new Hawkeyes. Up this week is 3-star OL Coy Kirkpatrick.
MADRID, Iowa — The music stopped. So did the clanking of metal and grunts of 30 or so teenagers pumping iron.
Football and track teammates squeezed in tight, sharing benches to sit on. The Madrid High School weight room is a small space, but something big needed to be said.
Everyone knew what was coming. Someone was going to speak, but no one knew who.
Coy Kirkpatrick wanted to start talking. There was so much to say about coach Randy Hinkel. Things others should hear, about him, about themselves, what Hinkel would want them to do.
Yes, giving a speech seemed like the right thing to do. Then, the next second, it seemed wrong. The second-guessing began. Should he even talk? He was only a junior. Players were looking to the seniors now. Heck, Kirkpatrick did, too. They were the oldest players in the room and on the team. It was their spot.
But assistant coach Steve Perkins wanted players to communicate. It’s why the early-morning speeches started in the first place. They were important, he told them, and Kirkpatrick knew an essential point needed to be addressed.
The feelings still were fresh. Everyone still was processing it all. The team needed a leader, several actually, but Kirkpatrick wasn’t a captain and wasn’t comfortable with public speaking. The nagging suspicion he shouldn’t open his mouth wouldn’t go away.
Kirkpatrick’s internal back-and-forth raged on, drowning out the silence in a room waiting for someone to step forward.
Should he stand up?
Could he do it for his coach?
Would the Iowa offensive line signee embrace the natural leadership traits inside of him?
• • •
During his first high school football camp, uncertainty washed over Coy Kirkpatrick. Then the fear. Finally, the questions came.
Why was he lined up against a junior college lineman? Did the Iowa State coaches lose their minds? Would a 230-pound freshman boy be anything more than a rag doll against a fully developed man?
It turns out the answer is no. Coy held his own, fitting in with players half a decade older.
“I didn’t know my potential,” Coy said.
He never did, not even after Iowa State sent a recruiting letter after the camp visit. It gave him some confidence, but nothing more. Coy was young and a little naive. He just wanted to play football and never thought much about his future or what his camp performance might foreshadow.
He always brushed off his dad’s comments about starting as a freshman, even after holding his own against the JUCO players. Coy looked up to him. Craig Kirkpatrick played on the 1991 Madrid state championship football team and held the school discus record he wanted to beat, but his dad didn’t know what he was talking about here. A freshman, starting for Madrid, one of the top programs in the state?
Coy didn’t believe, but his dad did. He didn’t need the Iowa State results to confirm what he already knew. His son would be a good high school athlete. He watched kids go from the junior high to the high school for decades. Others weren’t so sure, but it wasn’t hard for him to predict. His youngest of three sons possessed size and athleticism. At a school of 160 kids, the math was simple. Linemen like that didn’t just show up every year. When they did, they’d be on varsity before fall camp ended.
“I knew he would be something, but I wasn’t sure that it would be at this level,” Craig said.
Most parents don’t predict a Division I scholarship offer for their child, which came for Coy in June 2015 from Iowa. The Madrid staff didn’t know then it would be coming, either, but Perkins always kept an eye on Coy since watching him in third grade.
He was always big, but unlike most larger boys, coordination wasn’t a problem, which surprised Perkins.
“He is like a lab puppy,” Perkins said. “His legs are all over the place, and his arms are going in a different direction. You could tell he had pretty good control of his body, and you knew he was a pretty darn good athlete being that big and moving that well.”
It’s why Coy, who would grow to 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, could overpower high school seniors during an Iowa football camp before his junior year. His performance impressed Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan. The Hawkeyes told Coy they would be in touch. Morgan talked with Craig the next day, asking for Coy to reach out.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) February 1, 2017
Craig, a former Iowa State thrower, had an idea of what could come next and put his son through a crash course on how to handle himself if Iowa offered a scholarship.
Be polite. Say thanks. Let them know you’ll need to talk it over with your family.
Coy heard the words but didn’t really listen. He didn’t really comprehend the importance of the next few minutes, probably because part of him didn’t think it would happen. He never talked to a college coach before. There would be no way his first phone call would involve a scholarship.
But it did.
“I couldn’t even talk,” Coy said.
He never knew what he could really do, be it on the field or by speaking up.
• • •
Hinkel arrived at Madrid to coach football and track in 1987. Craig’s brother, Chad Kirkpatrick, was the quarterback. Craig Kirkpatrick would come along two years later. Then his three sons followed almost two decades later.
Hinkel coached them all with Natalie Kirkpatrick watching in the stands on Friday nights, first when her husband played and then with her children. The family and Hinkel grew close. He went from coach to friend with Craig over the years.
“He meant a lot to me, my wife and the boys,” Craig said. “I think he did to a great number of people.”
Everyone knew Hinkel. He turned around the Tigers football team with his wishbone offense. There was the state title and 25 playoff appearances in 26 years.
He was the 11th coach to win 300 career games in Iowa, but he meant more than that in Madrid. He coached generations of kids, helping to shape not only them but the town for decades to come. Now-40-year-old businessmen grew up playing for him. So did the 20-year-olds. They could bond over Hinkel, similar experiences and their football days.
Madrid is the definition of small-town Iowa. Population is 2,551. Hinkel served as a tether, a connection to the present and the past, both to those who stayed and those who return to visit family and take in Friday night games.
“Pillar of this community doesn’t even begin to do it justice,” Perkins said.
Then on Dec. 20, 2015, news started to spread as Coy sat in his brother’s room, watching him play Xbox. The phone rang and Coy noticed his mom teary-eyed before the texts started coming in, each family member getting bits of the story.
An ambulance went to the high school for Hinkel. Death didn’t enter the equation, certainly not then for a teenager. Hinkel underwent previous hip and knee surgeries. He likely just needed to go to the hospital.
Then a Life Flight helicopter was called in. For the first time, Coy considered the possibility of something more severe.
The helicopter didn’t take off quickly, and the ambulance left without its sirens on. Coy had enough time to realize something was odd before his mom explained the rest.
Hinkel died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Coy said.
He lay in his brother’s bed, speechless, and tried to sleep on it, but it didn’t help. The next few days were some of the roughest of his life.
“I’ve never seen my kids so emotional,” Natalie said. “They’ve never had to deal with that type of thing.”
They weren’t alone. Teammates were in the same position. In retrospect, Craig thinks it took the kids a few months to truly realize what happened. There was no warning. Hinkel was there one day and gone the next.
It was as if Coy and teammates still thought Hinkel would show up the first day of track practice. They knew Perkins, who became the head football and track coach, would give the season-opening speech, but it still felt odd, wrong even, for Hinkel not to do it.
Football was tougher without Hinkel than track for Coy. Hinkel always roamed the field at practice or paced the sideline on Friday night. This was his territory, yet it wasn’t anymore.
“You have so many memories with him, you picture him being there,” Coy said. “It felt like he had to be there.”
— Coy Alan Kirkpatrick (@coykirkpatrick) August 27, 2016
The number of people at the funeral first caught Coy’s eye as he walked into the Madrid High School gym. The seats were full. The whole town — teachers, classmates and alumni — was there. He saw a few friends from Ballard High School in their football jerseys.
After a few steps, he noticed something else. Everyone’s head was down. As he walked past the urn with Hinkel’s ashes, the reality of it all hit him for the first time, and he broke down.
“It was a hard pill to swallow,” Coy said.
• • •
Coy is an adult’s dream. He rarely gets in trouble. Parents don’t need to worry about him. He is respectful, nice and listens to his coaches, especially when it’s something he doesn’t know.
“This is the type Coy is,” Craig said. “If you lay it out for him, whether it’s in school, life, a job or sports, and say this is what you need to do for this outcome, 99 percent of the time he is going to do what it takes to get that outcome.”
A little guidance goes a long way. It was always that way with him. He would tag along as his dad went hunting and fishing, picking up pointers on each trip. Coy would watch his older brothers, Clay and Cade, as they showed him the way in sports.
He didn’t know what he was getting into with his first high school football two-a-days. He again turned to his brothers for a blueprint. Clay was a senior and made his freshman brother his pet project. Clay played on both sides of the line. Coy was a defensive end and tight end. The two would go 1-on-1 in practice. Clay would critique his brother’s form and help him learn the playbook.
Cade, a year older than Coy, passed on his football IQ and stressed the importance of always learning on the field. Cade showed Coy how to pop an ear into the conversation when a coach was chewing out a teammate without either knowing he was paying attention.
It allowed Coy to fix a mistake before he would make it.
“I kind of had it set up for me,” Coy said. “Some kids grow up without an older brother, and they kind of had to learn the process. I am very fortunate.”
He wanted to pay it forward. Only there was one problem. He was the baby in the family.
Without a younger sibling, he turned to the person who felt like one, his cousin Isaac Owensby, a freshman this last season. Coy took him under his wing, and a funny thing happened. He realized he loved to lead. He enjoyed showing others the way things are done at Madrid.
Coy passed on everything he learned from his brothers and made sure to follow their example. He wouldn’t nitpick or point fingers. It was all constructive criticism.
Now that doesn’t mean he sugarcoated anything. His parents always were honest with him. So if he needed to be blunt with his cousin, he would.
“He can take the heat,” Coy said. “I wasn’t a guy who would baby people.”
One of the biggest kids in school can cut an intimidating presence. Classmates may be afraid to say anything to him. Perkins sees it all the time, but classmates are drawn to Coy. He invites conversations and knows something about almost everyone walking past him in the halls. Coy took time out of a February track practice to chat with the distance runners. They bonded over their excitement for the upcoming season.
“That rubs off on people,” Perkins said. “They want to be around stuff like that as opposed to pushing them away.”
Coy went out of his way to make sure the underclassmen felt comfortable during football season. He figured the seniors and juniors already knew how to act.
The sophomores and freshmen were new, though. They needed to be taught the culture. He went beyond his cousin. He passed on tips and made sure to say hello to everyone in the locker room, ensuring they weren’t scared to ask a question.
Coy led Madrid to 9 wins in his senior year. He terrorized opponents on the offensive and defensive line, earning first-team all-state honors while dreaming of doing big things with the Hawkeyes.
He didn’t react when his coach went over his accolades with a visitor. Coy only smiled when Perkins called him one word that starts with an L.
“Being a leader is what meant the most to me,” Coy said. “When I got that label about being a leader, it felt good.”
• • •
Happiness is seeing Coy tell his favorite Hinkel story.
His eyes light up as he describes how, as a freshman, he watched as Hinkel screamed his name, threw his hat and started cussing him out for not being on the field.
His arms fly in the air, mimicking Hinkel’s actions as the coach lets the freshman have it.
He smiles when he gets to the punch line. Coy was in the huddle the whole time. Someone else forgot to come in.
“That was funny,” he said.
The memories and lessons are still there. Coy thought back to them on the days after the funeral. Hinkel always asked how his players would respond when they got knocked down. He wanted to teach them how to handle adversity.
“It’s about the drive and not quitting,” Coy said.
He never wanted his players to give up. Coy kept thinking about that point.
It would hit him when he was alone. He would think about it with family. It was never far when reading the group text with his teammates. They hashed out a lot with their messages, and the discussion kept coming back to Hinkel and the weight room.
It was always his focus. Hinkel would sit outside, overseeing his players’ workouts, holding a Diet Mountain Dew in his hand. The weight room was Hinkel’s sanctuary and seemingly the soul of the program. Players gained strength while bonding with each other and their coach. If anything, the Tigers needed to all get back to the weight room. It felt like the right way for the team to honor him.
Perkins wanted them to do more than work out. The players needed to hear from the leaders. The coaches talking about Hinkel was one thing but having a teammate offer a few thoughts might mean more.
Lifting seemed the right time. Everyone would be together. Anyone could talk. A few players would speak one day, and a couple of days later, someone else could do it.
The initial return was hard. When someone kept staring at the ground or looked down, nothing needed to be said. Everyone knew what was going on.
“That is when you go and lift them up because that is what you would want someone to do to you,” Coy said.
So there he sat, about a week or two after the funeral, wrestling with what to do. Everything he learned, from his family and Madrid football, screamed that this was the time to address the silent weight room, to take a step toward embracing what those around him knew he would become.
So he stood up. Words started coming, and they didn’t stop. He said there was nothing they could do about the death of their coach. They all would need to push through. Hinkel would want them to keep working, and he was watching down on them from above. Above all else, they needed to do it for Hinkel.
The room stayed silent when Coy finished. He stood shaking, yet relieved.
“I knew I had to step up,” Coy said.
A leader usually does.
For the complete Iowa NextGen series, click this link.