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After accident, Iowa's Jack Koerner seizes the moment
HAWKEYE FOOTBALL

After accident, Iowa's Jack Koerner seizes the moment

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Holiday Bowl Football

In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, file photo, Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner (28) reacts after Iowa recovered a fumble during the second half of the Holiday Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California in San Diego.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- He prefers to avoid discussing details, but Jack Koerner doesn’t take a moment for granted these days.

The Iowa free safety is back on the practice field preparing for the Hawkeyes’ season opener against Purdue after avoiding serious injury in a watercraft accident which saw a close friend lose a leg.

“I was lucky enough not to sustain any life-altering injuries,’’ Koerner said during a video interview last week.

Koerner had joined his father and some friends at the Lake of Ozarks for a father and son weekend in early June.

Arriving on a Friday afternoon after participating in a voluntary strength and conditioning workout that morning at the Hawkeye football complex, Koerner and friend Cole Coffin hopped on a Sea-Doo which collided with a boat on the lake.

Koerner was transported to the Lakes Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, Mo., by ambulance while Coffin, also an Iowa student and a high school friend and teammate of Koerner at West Des Moines Dowling, was airlifted to University Hospital in Columbia, Mo.

There, Coffin had a leg amputated because of injuries suffered in the accident which totaled the Sea-Doo.

“Pretty much a freaky accident,’’ Koerner said. “…. My friend, Cole, unfortunately, did sustain that leg injury and amputation. He’s back at Iowa now, going through physical therapy. He’s got a new prosthetic, and he’s doing really well with that.’’

Koerner said he admires the courage Coffin has shown while working through the life-altering situation.

“He is somebody who has shown a lot of grit and a lot of strength that a lot of people faced with similar circumstances I don’t know if they would have been able to,’’ Koerner said. “You’ve got to applaud him, because I don’t know if anybody could have handled it better than he has.’’

Koerner was released from the hospital two days following the accident and returned to workouts earlier this summer after finishing second on the Iowa team with 81 tackles last season.

Initially a walk-on at Iowa following an all-state career at Dowling, Koerner emerged in the Hawkeye secondary last season.

He earned his first career start in Iowa’s second game of the season last fall after Kaevon Merriweather suffered a foot injury and Koerner went on to start 11 times for Iowa during its 10-3 season in 2019.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Koerner begins his junior season listed at the top of the Iowa depth chart at free safety, looking to build off of a season which saw him intercept one pass, break up five more and recover two fumbles.

Koerner spent time this summer building back the strength he lost after missing some work following the accident and he is currently back at full speed and full strength while preparing for the delayed start to the season.

“I’ve been able to fully recover and put it all behind me to where now I am just looking forward to the season,’’ Koerner said.

Still, visiting Coffin regularly remains part of Koerner’s routine.

“I’ve been able to see him quite a few times since the accident. He’s the same old Cole, just a pleasure to be around. He’s not feeling sorry for himself and he doesn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him,’’ Koerner said.

“It’s just something that has changed his life and he has attacked it as well as anybody could. I’m super proud of him, and proud to call him my friend.’’

IOWA, ILLINOIS LAND FRIDAY GAMES

Iowa will play two of its eight regular-season football games this fall on Friday and Illinois will kickoff the season with a Friday game.

The Big Ten announced Monday that the Hawkeyes will play at Minnesota on Friday, Nov. 13 and will host Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 27, the 10th consecutive year those teams have met on Black Friday.

The game against the Golden Gophers is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff and telecast by FS1, while Fox or FS1 will televise the game against the Cornhuskers at a time to be determined.

Illinois is also involved in a series of Friday games announced by the Big Ten on Monday, opening its season at Wisconsin on Friday, Oct. 23 with a 7 p.m. game to be televised by BTN.

The starting time for Iowa’s opener on Oct. 24 has also been set. The Hawkeyes will play at Purdue at 2:30 p.m. in a game to be televised by BTN.

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