Tailgating from a Cyclone Football Player’s Family


Josh after ISU beat TCU

Knipfel after ISU beat TCU

Adversity. Perseverance. Triumph.

These three words read like a motivational poster, yet they fittingly describe Josh Knipfel’s football career. Knipfel went from not being recruited by a Division 1 school when he graduated in 2016 from Hampton-Dumont High School to starting in 2017 for his dream college team.

Knipfel never lost sight of his dream of playing D1 football, preferably at a Power 5 school. He decided Iowa Western Community College was the best option to work toward his goal. Knipfel was one of 180 student athletes who showed up for Day 1 of fall football camp. He earned a starting position, and Iowa Western began making his highlight reel.

“His work ethic and his sheer determination are the keys to his development as a D1 player,” says Josh’s mom, Suzy Knipfel of Hampton, Iowa. “To play at the level he is playing in, you must go into every practice, every weight-lifting session and every conditioning session with that attitude that ‘I’m going to be twice as good today as I was the day before.’ Josh set a goal and he never gave up.”

Forever True

Cyclone Jr. Club Freshman Year. Pictured from left to right: Aidan Carr, Spencer Clark, Joe Schull, Josh Knipfe

Knipfel became the 45th player to leave Iowa Western with a D1 offer and the 11th Iowan to leave Iowa Western after only one year.

“One of the things I really admired about Josh through the recruiting process was the standards he set. He wanted a school that focused on tradition and academics plus had a great fan base. Iowa State, and Coach Campbell met all three of those requirements. I was interested in a coach that would make Josh accountable in all aspects of being a student-athlete. At a recent press conference, Coach Campbell said that Josh ‘brings the best version of himself every day and has unbelievable leadership traits.’ That’s high praise from a very respected coach.”

When Knipfel signed his National Letter of Intent (NLI) with ISU in 2017, he had four years to play three and was considered a true sophomore.

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Liberty Bowl Pep Rally. Pictured left to right: Molly Skripsky, Dan Knipfel, Steph McWilliams, Josh Knipfel, Suzy Knipfel, Joel McWilliams, Dennis Knipfel

“I have a lot of ‘proud mom’ moments, but a big one last year was seeing Josh start in the first game against UNI (University of Northern Iowa),” says Suzy. “Seeing him play in that first snap was something Dennis and I will never forget!  One year later I am most proud that Josh has stayed true to himself. He maintains the same easy-going personality he has had his whole life.”

The ISU vs. UNI game was significant for another reason.

Josh’s older brother, Dan, was a freshman at ISU in 2005. That fall Dennis and Suzy surprised Josh with tickets to an ISU/UNI football game.

Josh's first spirit walk

Josh’s First Spirit Walk

“Josh was seven years old at the time. I remember he just stared at the huge student section
until the game started,” recalls Suzy. “Once the game started, he watched every single play!  At half-time we asked him if he wanted anything to eat. He was like, ‘Nope. I’m not leaving my spot.’ Fast forward to 7th grade when Josh and his best friend, Aidan Carr, became members of the Cyclone Jr. Club. They went to every home game through their junior year of high school.”

Game Day

“Do we love game day!” says Suzy. “If it’s a home game, we arrive in plenty of time for the Spirit Walk, which is 2½ hours before the game. We greet the players as they enter the Bergstrom practice facility and wish Josh good luck for the game. It’s very impressive to see all the players dressed in suits, wearing a cardinal tie. We tailgate with other players’ families, as well as with our friends. We’re usually in our seats 30 minutes before the game, so we can watch the pre-game activities.”


Family picture after the banquet where Josh received the Durwood “Dury” Moss Outstanding Newcomer Award.

For the away games, Dennis and Suzy usually leave on Thursday morning. Fridays are spent in the host town. Parents can see their sons for one hour in the team hotel lounge area, which is usually from 7 to 8 p.m. After that, a group of parents go out to eat. Game day is usually spent getting to the stadium early and watching the pre-game activities.

If you look closely at Knipfel’s arm on game day, you’ll see a different number is written on his taped arm. The number changes to represents the number of miles his parents have traveled since high school to his games. They’ve driven about 22,000 to date.

“What an amazing gesture that is to us!” says Suzy of Josh’s mileage tracker. “We put over 10,000 miles on our car last fall, and we loved every minute of it. Our favorite away game was definitely the Oklahoma win!”

Josh talking to Hampton Dumont 5th Graders before the Liberty Bowl

Josh talking to Hampton-Dumont 5th Graders before the Liberty Bowl.

Dennis and Suzy will log another 280 miles this weekend, but you can bet they’ll be in good company at the Cy-Hawk Showdown in Iowa City.

“We’ve all been amazed by all the support for Josh on this journey,” says Suzy. “Josh was so humbled at the Cyclone Tailgate Tour stop this summer in Clear Lake because there was a large turnout from our community. While Franklin County is home to many Cyclone fans, there are many people who say they are ‘Josh Knipfel fans’ although they’re not Cyclone fans.”

Josh enjoys giving back to the community that has supported him.  When his schedule allows, he speaks to students in the classroom, volunteers at the Harriman-Nielsen Historic Farm and speaks at service club meetings. He also enjoys hanging out with his friends, playing disk golf, going to movies, fishing and attending his niece’ activities.

In celebration of tomorrow’s “state super bowl,” the Knipfel family is sharing a couple of their favorite tailgating recipes.

Dried Beef & Sour Cream

Latham locker room show graphic (002)


Easy Breakfast Casserole


Pre-heat oven to 365 degrees.

8-9 eggs

1 pkg frozen shredded hash browns ( I use the southern style with green peppers and onion)

1 to 1 1/2 cups of cubed ham or browned ground sausage

1/4 cup milk

2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine


  • Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and add the package of hash browns; spreading evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over the hash browns.
  • Spread half of the meat over the cheese.
  • Mix the eggs and milk together in a bowl and pour over the hashbrowns.
  • Spread the remaining meat on top of the eggs
  • Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the eggs/meat.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bake at 365 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

This recipe is great for a morning tailgate!