IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Ferentz family plays it close to the vest. They’re tight knit. What happens in the house, stays in the house.
When they gather on Saturday for their traditional Thanksgiving meal — a day after Friday’s 11a.m. Iowa-Nebraska football game at Kinnick Stadium — Mary Ferentz will have baked an extra pumpkin pie.
“She always has to prepare an extra one, because believe it or not, my brother Steve eats one by himself,” said center James Ferentz, who plays his final Iowa football game on Friday. “The smallest boy in the family is the biggest eater.”
While most of the world pecks away at turkey and stuffing Thursday, the Ferentz men —Hawkeye players James and Steve, assistant coach Brian, and Kirk, the head coach — will be among 100 or so eating the football-traditional meal they usually eat on days before games.
“We’ll get together, but it’s usually on Saturdays after Thanksgiving,” James said.
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Turkey, dressing and all the fixins Thursday?
While others gorge themselves, football players must wait.
Mashed potatoes? Maybe, but with the Hawkeyes, it’s also heavy on the rice.
There’s bread, but mostly the traditional kind.
Nope — beef and chicken.
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So, as Iowa defensive tackle Steve Bigach eats alongside teammates such as Dominic Alvis and Christian Kirksey, the rest of his clan will be at grandma’s.
“We really miss not having him around. We miss him a lot,” said Steve’s mom, Margaret Bigach. “He’s not around for any of the holidays, but I understand why.”
Therefore, memories of past Thanksgivings have to suffice.
“My grandfather — my dad’s dad — was an extraordinary eater,” Steve Bigach said. “That guy was world class. I’d always compete with him. He’d have his plate stacked up, and I’d have my plate stacked up … this was when I was 8 years old.
“He’d say OK, ready, go, and I’d sit there and dig in as fast as I possibly could. He’d sit there and he’d watch, and I was like ‘Grandpa, what are you doing?’ And the guy would take maybe three or four spoonfuls and his entire plate would disappear.
“He had two or three plates done before I got one done. I still don’t know how he did it. Maybe he stored food under the table.”
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There’s no food under the table at the Ferentz house, not with threefootball-playing sons, a football coach and two girls. Even if there are scraps left over, James probably puts them in bags for his dogs June and Rusty.
“My mom always made turkey,” James Ferentz said. “It was a pretty big one; no one went hungry.”
Aside from Steve’s personal pie, the dining fare is usually pretty standard:
“Turkey, stuffing, breads — all the good stuff,” James said. “We usually have cranberry sauce, too. That jelly stuff — that’s what dad likes.”
Who ate the most?
“Are you kidding?” James responded. “No one — no one — could match Steve.”
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Back at the Bigachs …
“Steve was always a good eater during Thanksgiving,” mom said. “Turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes.”
But the broccoli?
“The only way we could get him to eat that,” Margaret said, “was to hide the broccoli under the cheese sauce.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football