Walk-on players have made significant impacts over the years at Iowa — just look at last year with Jake Gervase and Nick Easley. There are also more under-the-radar guys who’ve meant just as much to the program’s success as the big stars.
“That’s kind of what the Iowa program is all about, just finding your role and really cherishing it and doing whatever you can for the team.”
John Milani’s name won’t pop up on the stat sheet during most games. And the walk-on has never really been on the two-deep at defensive back.
“Everyone comes here and wants to start. That’s everyone’s dream, but you kind of learn your role and you do that to the best of your abilities. I don’t have any regrets,” Milani said.
But the senior from Iowa City embodies the philosophy of the Hawkeyes football program.
“Just keep working,” Milani said. “If you put good things in, good things will come from it.”
Milani’s journey hasn’t been without some adversity. He said he considered quitting after his freshman year, only to lean on family and friends to perservere.
“Had some injuries, had a shoulder surgery,” Milani said. “There were some ups-and-downs at the beginning, but after a while things began to settle down.”
Kirk Ferentz said he believes the sense of team is why unheralded guys like Milani stick with the program.
“It gets in your blood, and it’s something that’s hard to separate from, and then it’s something you really miss or chase kind of the rest of your life because it’s really hard to find,” Ferentz said. “It’s hard to experience things on the outside where the bonds are as close and the emotions are quite as intense.”
“Met some of my best friends for life, had some unbelievable experiences, able to get a Big Ten education,” Milani said. “It’s been a great time. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Milani said he’s expecting all of the emotions to come out on Saturday when he meets his parents at midfield. A dream come true for a local kid getting the wear the black and gold one more time at Kinnick.
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