Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Hawkeyes join the fun, rally for Reid


Steve Batterson

Jun 24, 2022 

Participants in the morning session of the Rally for Reid football camp pose for a photo, Friday, June 24, 2022, at

Assumption High School in Davenport.



It was a challenge to tell who was having more fun Friday at the Rally for Reid Football Camp — the group of about 600 participants or the former Iowa football players who volunteered their time as coaches.

"To see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they’re out running around having fun with football, that’s what it’s about," said Tampa Bay offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, who flew in from Florida to participate in the camp for the second straight year.

"It’s good to see some former teammates and be a part of something that benefits a great cause, too."

The second annual camp organized by Los Angeles Rams safety and Davenport native Jake Gervase was held at the Jack and Pat Bush Stadium at Assumption High School, where the new turf provided plenty of room for participants in each of three sessions to work with coaches as they rotated through a series of drills spread across the field.

The first 90-minute session attracted 195 participants and was designed for kids entering kindergarten through second grade this fall. Sessions followed for a group of 255 entering third through fifth grade and a final group encompassing sixth through ninth grades.

"With the younger kids, we want them to just have fun with the game, and as we work our way up, the focus becomes a little more on the fundamentals," Gervase said.

All proceeds from the camp and an online auction of items including jerseys and game-worn cleats from former Hawkeyes benefit the Rally for Reid Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research and helps Iowa families who are directly impacted by pediatric cancer.

Gervase’s work in setting up the first camp helped raise $70,000 for the foundation a year ago, and he believes this year’s camp will top that.

The camp is named after Reid Gleeson, the first-born son of Megan and Bill Gleeson who battled pediatric cancer before dying nearly two years ago at the age of five.

Megan Gleeson now serves as the executive director of the Rally for Reid Foundation, working to help other families who find themselves in a similar situation and assist in research efforts.

In addition to the football, the foundation hosted a Rally for Reid Spirit Camp on the St. Ambrose campus Friday which attracted 150 youngsters who learned cheer and dance routines from former Iowa and current St. Ambrose spirit and dance squad members.

"It warms my heart to see people out here doing the things Reid loved, so full of energy," Megan Gleeson said between sessions at the football camp. "We’re so thankful for the Hawkeyes who volunteer their time and travel here to make this a special day."

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nate Stanley was one of the coaches at the camp for a second year.

"I saw a year ago how special of an event this is and to help raise money for pediatric cancer research, I’m honored to help out," said Stanley, who threw passes to youths at one of the drill stations. "Jake was a teammate and he’s put a lot of work into this. It’s a great camp for a great cause."

Reid Gleeson’s treatment included a stay at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where Iowa football players have traditionally visited with young patients and families.

The connections are real and long lasting.

Jordan Canzeri, a running back who ran for 2,073 yards during his Hawkeye career from 2011-15, traveled from his home state of New York to help at the camp.

Canzeri said he still visits a family whose youngster he met at the hospital during his playing career.

"After their son passed away, I’ve stayed in contact and they become friends," Canzeri said.

He sees those connections as a byproduct of what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff have traditionally taught Hawkeye players beyond the sport.

"Football has provided us with a platform to be involved in more than a game," Canzeri said. "That is something coach Ferentz believes in and teaches and the ability to work to make a difference is something we carry with us for the rest of our lives."

Several Hawkeyes who completed their eligibility last fall, offensive lineman Kyler Schott and defensive backs Dane Belton and Jack Koerner, were among coaches at the camp.

They were joined by linebackers Ben Niemann, Nick Niemann and Pat Angerer, tight end Parker Hesse, defensive tackle Jack Heflin, offensive linemen Austin Blythe and Matt Nelson and fullback Austin Kelly in working with camp participants.

"This is something special, a little bit of what Iowa football is all about," said Heflin, a Prophetstown, Ill., native who made the Green Bay Packers roster a year ago as an undrafted free agent. "It’s a great cause and the chance to work with some kids, that’s special, too."

Austin Blythe leads a drill during the second annual Rally for Reid football camp, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Davenport.


Austin Blythe leads a drill during the second annual Rally for Reid football camp, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Davenport.


Former Hawkeye Austin Blythe breaks kids out of a huddle at the Rally for Reid football camp, Friday, June 24, 2022, at Assumption High School in Davenport.


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