Iowans in professional sports

In a state without a major league sports franchise, it is only natural that college sports draw the most attention. But following football and basketball seasons that fell short of expectations at both Iowa State and Iowa, Iowa’s sports fans have little to cheer about. Fortunately, Iowans are coming to prominence in the most unlikely of places—professional sports. The unexpected rise of Iowans to the top of the world of pro sports began this February. While Iowa State and Iowa were struggling through their respective basketball schedules, former Hawkeyes were making plays in the biggest game of the NFL season. Tight end Dallas Clark caught 4 passes for 36 yards, but the star for the champion Indianapolis Colts was Clark’s former Iowa teammate Bob Sanders. Sanders was arguably the game’s top performer, forcing one fumble and pulling in an interception. At the time, the success of these two in-state collegiate stars was a nice story, but nobody expected it to start a trend among Iowans. Two months after the Colts’ Super Bowl victory, former Drake golfer Zach Johnson beat out an elite field to win the prestigious Masters tournament. It was the first major championship for Johnson, a rising star on the PGA tour. Most impressive of all was that Johnson outplayed golfing god Tiger Woods, a claim only a handful of golfers can make. After these two monumental victories, other Iowans may have trouble matching the performances of Clark, Sanders, and Johnson. Fans shouldn’t worry about a title drought for Iowa athletes, however. April 4, Iowa State All-American Lyndsey Medders was the 22nd player selected in the WNBA draft, the highest ever for an Iowa collegiate player. Medders will take her leadership to the Indiana Fever, a playoff team last year that figures to contend again this year behind one of the league’s best players, Tamika Catchings. On the men’s side, Kirk Hinrich is carrying the title hopes of his fellow Iowans. The Sioux City native and former Kansas Jayhawk led the Chicago Bulls to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference with the playoffs slated to begin April 21. With a well-rounded squad, the Bulls are prepared to challenge top seed Detroit for a spot in the NBA Finals. If they were to advance that far, the Bulls would have to overcome overwhelming odds to bring home the title. The Western Conference has the undisputed top three teams in the league, however none of them have Iowans on their rosters. This key stat may be what puts the Bulls on top. Although Iowa may be lacking a major league franchise, Des Moines is home to the Iowa Cubs. The Cubs are a triple-A affiliate to the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball. This means that the I-Cubs will feature the best minor league prospects of the Chicago Cubs and will occasionally house struggling major-leaguers. Considering the frequent struggles of the Chicago players, the I-Cubs may enjoy the services of major league players quite often. By pitting their major league talent against minor league opponents, the I-Cubs should contend for the division title. While the Cyclones and Hawkeyes likely won’t win any titles in the coming year, Iowans can look to the professional ranks to find a winner to root for.