Mascot Monday: Herky the Hawk


College football teams are knee deep in practices and scrimmages this week so we are strapping it on and hitting the pads here at the KCCGD.  Part of our preseason includes a yearly trek up to Big 10 country and Des Moines, Iowa.  So in honor of scrimmaging up in the Hawkeye State, we will take a look at the Iowa Hawkeyes and Herky the Hawk.  We’ll figure out why Iowa became the Hawkeye state.  We’ll also find out why Herky is such a rambunctious bird.  Come fly with us and Herky.

So how does a bird get his name?  Welp way back in 1843, Judge David Rorer renamed the Burlington newspaper to the Burlington Hawkeye, in honor of Chief Black Hawk and the War fought for the city earlier that century.  The state of Iowa eventually adopted the name of the paper for the state nickname.  The University of Iowa, stepping claw in line, naturally followed and used Hawkeye as its athletic team name.  The birth of Herky followed much later.


In 1948, a staffer in the athletic department wanted a symbol to represent the team.  Local photojournalism instructor Richard Spencer III penned a satisfactory caricature of the bird.  The university was ecstatic about the drawing and held a statewide contest to name the bird Herky, after Greek dude Hercules.  Now that Herky came to be it was only a matter of time before he flew onto the field.  Herky hatched during a football game in 1959.  But first let’s take a look at his costume.

Herky sports a slick football getup.  Complete with football pants and shoulder pads, Herky comes ready to fight.  His wings seem a little limp but we’re sure he can take flight if he has to.  The head is of the massive type.  Where as some university do the fuzzy type, Iowa goes with the ceramic/Kevlar variety.  The helmet looks like a real one but the face seems a bit off.  There is a fierce grimace on Herky’s face and it proves to be one of the telling features of his personality.

herky on high

Apparently Herky’s been getting into fights.  We mentioned that his head was ceramic and then Kevlar.  In 1997, Herky got into a tussle with a Minnesota bad guy.  He tossed water, band pushed back, Herky punch-broke his glasses, the band cracked his head, and they took away his pieces.  So after that, the university commissioned a Kevlar version.  That’s just the type of toughness Herky needs.  It’s also proven to be a good commodity in competing in the Universal Cheerleading Association’s mascot championship the last couple of years.

Athlon sports ranks the Iowa Hawkeyes 23rd coming into the season.   They look to rebound this year after losing big time running back Shonn Greene to the NFL.  The Hawkeyes will need to dip into that toughness to live up to their expectations.   Look for further for than this feisty bird to lead the way.  We’ll be up there this weekend and we’re sure to see plenty of homages to Herky.