IOWA CITY, Iowa — Eleven weeks of college football have flown by in a season that has looked, sounded and felt much different than last.
Packed stadiums, tailgates and roaring fans across the country have brought back one of America's favorite pastimes in full force. Those three to four hours every Saturday are something to be thankful for.
"Thanksgiving is definitely getting pushed back with the family, I guess I'm just doing what I love doing, which is playing football," said Iowa offensive lineman Connor Colby. "You can't ask for anything better because this is basically your second family."
For collegiate football players, holidays get put on the back burner during the 13-week regular season, and sometimes through the new year depending on bowl schedules.
"It's definitely hard on you," running back Tyler Goodson said. "When you are so far away from family and you're used to always being around family each and every year and having fun with each other, it's definitely hard for a first-year guy. I know it was hard for me my first year."
Players and coaches are guaranteed to be on the road, in practice, or traveling to a game during a time of the year in which everyone is sitting down to be together with loved ones.
"There's a lot of times where we're working over the holidays," head football coach Kirk Ferentz said. "First of all it's a short window for players. For coaches it's kind of a lifetime thing."
A coaching career that has spanned more than 40 years, the dean of college football teaches his players year in and year out to be thankful.
"There's a lot of people making sacrifices, not to be with their families and are doing things that are really important. We're getting to play college football," Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes will get to celebrate Thanksgiving with a team meal prepared for men from different corners of the country, and some from outside of it.
Iowa's Australian punter Tory Taylor will experience his second Thanksgiving this year.
"It's all new to me," he said. "I'm really not too sure what the food is like on Thanksgiving, but I know they are putting on something nice for us. I'm looking forward to indulging in some nice food."
As for that team meal, it's one of the many last memories these players will carry on with them for their lifetimes.
"Team meals is something that kind of goes unnoticed or unsaid a lot of the time," tight end Sam LaPorta said.
A third-year player for the Hawks, LaPorta cherishes the little moments with his second family.
"Being able to sit down with the guys around dinner time, and then this week with the Thanksgiving dinner, it's just a time to be thankful for the opportunity we have and the time we get to spend with each other," he said.
Iowa will suit up for one final regular season game this week vs. Nebraska, with a Big Ten title on the line, the day after Thanksgiving.
"That's one of the extra perks in my opinion about the Black Friday game, at least guys locally on Saturday get to be with their families over the weekend," Ferentz said.
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