IOWA CITY — Casey Kreiter first walked on to the Kinnick Stadium football field a scared freshman, but now, as he prepares for his final game as a Hawkeye deep snapper, he’s as proud as they come.
Kreiter’s last game is next week when the Iowa Hawkeyes face the LSU Tigers in sunny Florida. The DeWitt native got his break in the 2010 season finale, and his contributions this season have helped his team play in a bowl game following a 4-8 season in 2012.
“I think the one thing that I’m going to take away from this season is the resiliency of this team,” Kreiter said. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but as a whole, we’ve come to work every single day and given our full effort.”
The group of seniors made the decision long before the season started that there wasn’t going to be anything that was going to bring the Hawkeyes down this time around.
“I haven’t had much time to sit around and reflect on this season, but I remember one point early in the season where we as a group, especially as seniors, where we were going to play like we had nothing to lose,” Kreiter said. “We talked about setting goals as a leadership group, and one thing that stood out to me was talking about playing like it’s going to be your last snap.”
Kreiter also had to handle what was in front of him on-the-spot back in 2010 when he made his Hawkeye debut against the team he grew up rooting for — the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Casey was just a redshirt freshman at the time of the 2010 finale when then-long snapper Andy Schultze went down with an injury early in the fourth quarter.
“I was just a scared little freshman when my name was called,” Kreiter recalls. “But, that ‘next man in’ mentality told me that I had a job to do and I had to go do it.”
Why a Gophers fan?
“That’s where my mom grew up, and didn’t really have a team to root for down here, I wanted to be different, so I sort of gravitated to being a Gophers fan, I guess,” he said with a laugh. “I picked the Gophers, and it’s kind of surreal to think I made my debut against the team I grew up cheering for.”
Ever since, Kreiter has played in 35 games for Iowa, recording nine tackles. However, he hasn’t forgotten where he has come from.
The former Central DeWitt Saber acknowledges what his parents, Jenny and Kurt Kreiter, have taught him, but Casey says his dad is the one who taught him a pretty strong message of appreciation.
“They’ve been behind me 100 percent and teach me how to do things the right way,” he said. “But my dad is a cancer survivor, and he’s instilled in me that kind of sense of urgency of you never know when your time will be up. And my mom has kept me in line when maybe I was swaying from where they wanted me to be.”
Kreiter recalls a time when he was starting to get more playing time, and turning to Kurt for advice on how to handle football and academic responsibilities.
“I told him that I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, and he wasn’t going to accept that from me,” he said. “I was watching film and going to practice, and he said that he knew that I could do well, and told me not to slip up. Getting good grades is one of those little things that you have to get right, and when you get many things going right, they snowball into great things.”
Kreiter looked up to another former Saber, Marcus Schnoor, who played for the Hawkeyes from 2001 to 2005.
“I was at the right age growing up to kind of see him blossom,” Kreiter said. “He really set the tone for me to say that a small-town Iowa kid can become a special teams captain for a Big Ten school when it’s all said and done.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is appreciative of what Casey has meant to the Hawkeyes.
“We have enjoyed having a young man like Casey and all of our senior leaders on our team for the presence they bring not only on-the-field, but off of it as well,” Ferentz said during his weekly radio show on Dec. 18.
Casey shared similar sentiments toward Ferentz and the coaching staff.
“They’re a family-oriented staff who is second to none,” he said. “You get the feel when you get here they care about you on and off the field. If I had the choice to go to a national perennial on a full-ride scholarship or relive every experience I’ve had as a Hawkeye, I’d choose walking on and doing it all over again here at Iowa because of the people here and what they stand for.”
Kreiter took home several awards at the team banquet Dec. 8. He was the lone special teams player to receive the Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” Award, given to players on the roster recognizing their outstanding leadership off the field.
He also took home the 2013 Brett Greenwood Award. The Greenwood Award is given to a walk-on football player who exemplifies what Greenwood stood for when he was with Iowa. Greenwood is a 2006 graduate of Pleasant Valley.
Kreiter also took home the Reggie Roby Special Teams Award as a specialist.
Now, Kreiter is trying to repay the favor, becoming a role model for younger student-athletes by becoming a science education major and wanting to become a teacher.
“I just want to do the same for kids that others did for me when I was growing up,” he said. “I love interacting with young adults, because I wouldn’t have gotten where I’ve gotten without the people I looked up to growing up.”
Kreiter spent this semester working on his practicum at Iowa City Regina.
Kreiter is trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps in becoming a teacher. Before taking his present duties at DeWitt, Kurt was a biology teacher.
Before Kreiter can think about becoming a teacher, however, he still has one more football game to play on New Year’s Day against LSU.
“They’re a great team and they play in a great conference,” he said. “I think this is a good game for us, because we love challenges, it’s what we’ve been faced against since the beginning of the year. I think if we play within our game plan, I think we’ll be happy with the outcome.”