By Courtney Baumann
NEW YORK — It may be one last go-round with the Iowa football team for all the seniors, but for Akrum Wadley, this one is extra special.
When the running back steps onto the field in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27, he will do so in front of a large cheering section consisting of his extended family, friends, and most importantly, his daughter.
Wadley’s family in Newark, New Jersey, hasn’t had many chances to see the senior play. With the exception of the game at Rutgers in 2016, most of Wadley’s family has not seen him play in person during his college career.
“It’s everything to me to finish here, close to home,” Wadley said. “I have over 40 people coming. My family is going to be there, my daughter is going to be there … It doesn’t get better than this.”
There will be so many people coming to the game for Wadley that he joked about trying to get more tickets from Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who is also from New Jersey.
“I tried to bully him for some tickets. Muscle, not bully,” Wadley said. “That was a joke. He was like, ‘Nah, I got people coming, too. That’s my city, too.’ “
Wadley admitted that having all those attending might contribute to his nerves — but in a good way. The urge to play well for his cheering section is a good thing in his mind.
“I really want to do well. It’s my last college game; we all want to win,” he said. “That’s the big thing — I want everything to go well.”
It’s not just his whole family being there that makes the game special for Wadley. He has 34 touchdowns on his career, which is just two away from tying the school record.
It’s something to keep in mind, but at the same time that’s not what Wadley is concerned about when it comes to the bowl game.
Instead, as always, he is focused on the game immediately ahead of him, and doing what he can to help the Hawkeyes win in his last game wearing the Black and Gold.
“I’m just focused on doing the best that I can do,” Wadley said. “I put in the work, we all put in the work. I’m just going to see what’s going on.”
While Wadley is not really thinking about the school record, neither was Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. He joked that it “snuck up on” him, beause the coaching staff spent so much time being “mad at” Wadley for his weight throughout his career.
Ferentz has always noted “the weight thing” when Wadley is the topic of conversation.
While the weight has long been an issue, Wadley has worked through it just fine.
“He’s been tremendous. He’s always had a good spirit, loves playing football, loves competing. He was skinny when he got here, not as skinny now, but he’s still pretty skinny,” Ferentz said. “But boy, what production he’s had. The most impactful thing for me is for him to be a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher …
“Part of it is that he came to our place with some things you can’t teach, but the rest of it is maturity and his awareness of the impact all players have.”