Hawkeyes’ new dad Ferguson keeps it in perspective
IOWA CITY — Working through his senior season on the Iowa football team, Dalton Ferguson delivers blocks on the field and saves the holds for his two tiny twin baby daughters.
“Holding them in my arms, it puts everything in perspective,” Ferguson said. “I’ve been through so much in my college career. Walking on, working my way up the depth chart, an ACL injury, getting my first start this season and now being a father to two beautiful baby girls, wow, it’s been pretty incredible.”
The September to remember continues today for the offensive lineman from Solon as the Hawkeyes prepare to host 18th-rated Wisconsin in a 7:30 p.m. Big Ten opener at Kinnick Stadium.
Ferguson, who is also working to complete the six hours of coursework he needs to earn his undergraduate degree from Iowa this semester, believes time-management skills learned in football are helping him deal with it all.
“This has tested me, but there’s no doubt the time management that goes along with being able to compete at this level is getting me through it,” Ferguson said.
His daily routine right now begins with football, taking the field with Iowa for its morning practices.
From there, he takes time to visit his girlfriend of past year and a half, Rachael, and his newborn daughters, Ella and Hazel. Football meetings, film work, some classwork for the two online classes he is taking to finish his degree and more time at the hospital follow.
After dealing with only two-and-a-half hours of sleep the first couple of days after his daughters were born, Ferguson has returned to a more consistent sleep routine that allows him to compete.
“It was overwhelming at first. I’m getting better with making it all fit together,” Ferguson said. “Rachael has been the biggest help. She is talking with the doctors every day and relays what they have to say to me. The coaches and staff here and my teammates, they’ve been great, too. It’s been an experience.”
Rachael, an Iowa graduate who plans to become a sonographer, is staying in family rooms at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where the two girls were born in early-morning hours of Sept. 7, a little over 24 hours before the Hawkeyes hosted Iowa State.
The twins were born five weeks premature, weighing in at 3 pounds, 4 ounces and 5 pounds, 8 ounces, and will likely stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the facility for some time.
“What helps me every day is knowing Ella and Hazel are being cared for by some of the best nurses and doctors in the country,” Ferguson said. “That place, they’re awesome. That helps me so much when I have to step away.”
Ferguson will join his teammates and everybody else jammed into sold-out Kinnick Stadium at the end of the first quarter tonight in waving to patients at the neighboring children’s hospital.
That simple act took on a new meaning for Ferguson during last week’s game against Northern Iowa, knowing that Rachel, Ella and Hazel were looking on for the first time.
“I tried not to get lost in the moment,” Ferguson said. “I was trying to make sure I was focusing on the game. I gave up a sack in the first quarter so I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too sidetracked. It was a very special moment, though.”
It’s been a special month for the 6-foot-4, 308-pound lineman from Solon.
He made his first career start at left tackle in Iowa’s season-opening win against Northern Illinois, then opened at right guard in place of injured Cole Banwart last week against Northern Iowa.
Ferguson is listed on the depth chart this week as the Hawkeyes’ probable starter at right guard against Wisconsin.
Coach Kirk Ferentz labels him one of Iowa’s “good stories,” with how he has grown from a being a walk-on into a contributor to the Hawkeyes’ 3-0 start.
“Dalton has been a great kid since he got in the program,” Ferentz said. “Worked hard, quietly goes about his business, then has to deal with a knee injury. … Everything that comes his way, he handles it levelheadedly and steady. He’s jumped in and done a really nice job for us.”
Ferguson spent the summer working at an Iowa City day care center and has hopes of one day working in player personnel with a professional or college football team.
For now, he expects to continue to do what he can to help make the most of his senior season, mentoring younger players as he was helped by veteran Hawkeyes when he arrived at Iowa as a walk-on.
“We’re a family, and working together, we’re off to a good start to the season. We’re here for each other,” Ferguson said, speaking about something he has come to understand all too well in recent weeks.