Michael O’Connell and Grant Mahoney grew up in parts of the state where cardinal and gold isn’t a part of many people’s wardrobes.
O’Connell, from Cedar Rapids, and Mahoney, a Marion product, both have landed in Cyclone Country playing college football at Iowa State. How does that sit with family and friends who have grown up as fans of their hated in-state rival?
“I’ve heard countless times, ‘I’ll be rooting for you but not for the Cyclones’ or ‘I’ll hope you do well every game but that one,’” said Mahoney, ISU’s sophomore place kicker.
O’Connell starred in high school at Iowa City Regina. The former walk-on was put on scholarship last month and sits atop the depth chart at free safety heading into Saturday’s Cy-Hawk showdown at Jack Trice Stadium.
O’Connell’s buddies haven’t given him the cold shoulder. They’ll even come over to Ames when Iowa is playing away from home.
“One thing I can say is that those guys have given me fantastic support,” he said. “They’ve grown close to a lot of the guys on the team here just because they know me… I’m sure some of them are still going to be cheering for the Hawkeyes though.”
Playing AAU basketball together for Martin Brothers is where O’Connell and Iowa safety Tyler Sash, who is from Oskaloosa, got to know one another.
The two have remained close in spite of their annual grudge match.
“He lives a mile away from my parents’ house,” said O’Connell, who was classmates with Hawkeye kicker Daniel Murray. “Anytime I am back I’ll stop by and catch up with him and just hang out. We like to talk football.”
Mahoney’s friends gave him a hard time last year at Kinnick Stadium, yelling out from the stands. His choice of colors hasn’t been too much of an issue.
“Everyone back home is supportive and they like to see me do well,” Mahoney said. “For the most part they like to see the Cyclones do well.”