Contributed photo. (Brian Ray/

Ladies’ Day in football land


Women from all over Iowa, as well as the country, raise money and have an exclusive day with Hawkeye players and coaches.

By Jess Westendorf

When the 2017 Ladies Football Academy took place on June 10 in Iowa City, the 291 women in the event raised more than $232,000 for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Head football coach Kirk Ferentz and members of the Hawkeye football team gave women from all over the country an exclusive Hawkeye football experience.

For those who don’t know what the Ladies Football Academy is, a rundown:

Women from all over the country can sign up to participate in the event by paying a one-time $50 registration fee. Then, the women need to raise funds $500 all year to make it to the event, said Mary Ferentz, the wife of Kirk Ferentz.

The organization committed to raise $2 million for different projects related to the Children’s Hospital, according to its website.

So far, $1 million aided the construction of the hospital. The next million will help fund different kinds of research.

With new players and coaches on this season’s Hawkeye football roster, making the itinerary new and interesting was easy.

“It is different every year because the players are different every year, and this year, we have three new coaches on the staff,” Mary Ferentz said. “These ladies get to meet these coaches that no one else has yet.”

The women participants are some of the first to interact and learn from offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, as well as quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe, who rejoined the staff in the spring.

Former Hawkeye football players Marshal Yanda and James Ferentz let the women try on their Super Bowl rings in the All-American Room of the Hansen Football Performance Center. Yanda played for the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 47, and James Ferentz was part of the Super Bowl 50 win by the Denver Broncos.

“Every year, you get to see the character that the Iowa football program brings in and that these guys care about what they are doing here,” said Tracy Lassmann, a returning participant from Davenport. “As for the football, there were some coaching changes — there were the same basic drills, but they were taught a different way.”

Jillyn Roxberg, who traveled from Pittsburgh to attend her fifth Ladies Football Academy, first saw information about the event after a friend from high school posted about the event.

After reading about it, she knew she wanted to be a part of the event. Her favorite part is the interactions with the players.

“You get to see [the players] on a different level,” she said. “You have to remember that these are just kids who go to class and are trying to play. It was really fun to see them have fun out there.”

Lassmann and Roxberg are just a few of the “returners” that have bonded in this experience. The women have started taking “ladies trips” as well as meeting up on football Saturdays to tailgate.

The one thing that each of the women agreed on was their favorite moment of the event.

“Honestly, it was neat to see the guys who have been here before,” Lassmann said. “For example, Matt VandeBerg, he goes, ‘You’ve been here, how many years?’ They recognize your face. That shows that they pay attention and they aren’t just going through the motions.”

This was the players’ “hair-down, fun-day,” Mary Ferentz said.

As she and her crew wrap up the last few things with this year’s event, they have started working on next year’s event, on June 9, 2018.

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