CEDAR RAPIDS — He won’t have to phone anyone this weekend because he’ll see them all in person.
Indiana assistant football coach Bill Inge has made it a habit to speak with someone associated with the Iowa Hawkeyes before each game. No matter where he is, or they are.
Lately, it’s been Greg Morris, Iowa’s equipment manager, though it has varied over the years. Sometimes it has been longtime videographer Jerry Palmer or equipment truck driver Jeff Riggan, among others.
They’re all his friends. Iowa plays Saturday at Indiana in an 11 a.m. kickoff on ESPN2.
“I was telling someone earlier that since I left Iowa City in 1999 to coach, I have talked to someone every game day Saturday and wished them the best of luck,” said Inge, who still has an Iowa City cell-phone number. “This is just the one game I’m not pulling for them.”
Inge is in his sixth season with the Hoosiers, his first as special teams coach. He joins buddy LeVar Woods with those duties.
Woods is a former Hawkeye teammate whom Inge and his family visit each summer in Iowa City. He said he sees Woods and fellow Iowa assistant Kelvin Bell on the road recruiting a lot.
Iowa and Iowa City still mean a ton to the former defensive lineman, who lettered four years (1993-1996). He played for Hayden Fry, was a recruiting coordinator for Kirk Ferentz.
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It was Ferentz and the late Bob Elliott who helped him get his first job when Inge decided he wanted to get into the crazy world of coaching. Inge began what is now a 19-year career at Northern Iowa in 2001.
He also has been at Colorado, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Buffalo. He had a one-year stint with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL before going to Indiana.
“You talk about two great men who got the opportunity to serve as foundation builders, obviously, with Coach Fry kind of nurturing me throughout my college (playing) career, and Coach Ferentz kind of doing the same into my professional career,” Inge said. “When I was recruiting coordinator on campus and told him ‘Hey, I want to coach,’ he said ‘Well, you let me know who I need to call. If there are some people I can call for you, I’ll do it.’ One of the first calls he made was to Mark Farley. That’s when I got my first job.”
Inge said he’s not surprised Ferentz has remained at Iowa for 20 years.
“That’s the kind of person he is,” he said. “The one thing that’s attributed to (former Iowa AD) Bob Bowlsby and staff is that they went after someone who was committed to building the program correctly. Kirk built it correctly, with the right kind of people. The individuals at Iowa come in and work hard. There’s a certain kind of standard that you have in the program. What he has done is very respectable. You can tell, because you don’t see that elsewhere.”
Inge said initially he had no interest in coaching, but that changed thanks to the way Elliott, Iowa’s defensive coordinator, mentored him and helped him get through the death of Inge’s father. Elliott died from complications of cancer in 2017.
Inge’s most famous pupil over the years is Chicago Bears superstar Khalil Mack, whom he coached at the University of Buffalo. Inge said he knew immediately how good the outside linebacker was going to be.
“When I saw him his first practice of spring ball, I remember talking to the staff and saying ‘That Mack is a little different guy. He’s wired different,’” Inge said. “We just had to keep him on the path of working, understanding how to prepare and having his mind to where he could be a great student of the game. As he increased all that, you could just see his production go higher and higher and higher.”
Inge said this Indiana team is young and learning how to work, be consistent and successful. He lauded Iowa for being a typical Iowa team, strong on both lines with a quarterback who knows how to play.
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No matter where he is, there’s a large part of him that will always be a Hawkeye. You talk to him for five minutes, and that much is obvious.
“To have the opportunity to do this almost 20 years is great,” he said. “Having the chance to really build young men from the heart to the heart. I’m only giving back what was given to me in my time as a student-athlete at Iowa.”
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