Cyclones and Hawkeyes come together for a good cause

Former Cyclones Sage Rosenfels stands beside a Safe T Home. (Photo courtesy Sukup Manufacturing Twitter)

 It’s simple and economical, yet robust. 

 Strong as steel, but easy to assemble.

And early Saturday afternoon on the south side of Kinnick Stadium, a unifying framework will bring celebrated Cyclones and Hawkeyes together — for a cause that supersedes school colors and transcends first downs and quarterback sacks.

 “There is no rivalry in supporting this idea,” said former ISU and NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

The nuts and bolts-based common bond?

Building a Sukup-engineered Safe T Home — just like the hundreds protecting communities on perilous ground in Haiti and other far-flung and frequently weather-battered places.

Rosenfels and former Iowa great Tim Dwight are the headliners, if you want to call them that. But several former Cardinal and Gold and Black and Gold-clad standouts such as Jeff Horner, Jack Whitver, Greg Brunner, Lane Danielsen, Jess Settles and Jadda Buckley are also slated to showcase what good can come from a shared vision for a better world.

“For me, its this large family-owned company that decided to stay in north central Iowa (Sheffield) and manufacturing, and farming — it’s everything that Iowa is, the state, in so many ways, right?” Rosenfels said.


But what’s a Safe T Home?

It’s all in the name.

After an earthquake in 2010 caused widespread loss of life in Haiti, Sukup and a group of volunteers worked to erect 200 grain bin-style homes in the island nation.

Six years later, Hurricane Matthew struck the shore violently, decimating standard structures, but causing relatively minor damage to the Iowa-engineered Safe T Homes. 

“It’s just remarkable to be able to withstand that kind of weather and be able to give a family safety and children safety, and for them to tie it into former Hawkeyes and former Cyclones and that unity, it’s just — I’m telling you, I can’t say enough good things about their company in general,” said Settles, who grew up on a farm and has continued his family’s tradition on the land. “I’ve just known about them and read about them since I was five years old and all of the patents they have and all of the things that they’ve developed as a group of people and a family and all their great workers — like I said, it’s an honor just to be a small part of it on Saturday.”

A small part of Cy-Hawk week, too — yet an important reminder that the steel that binds these buildings together banishes the pettiness that divides.

“So the ag background and working with grain bins and seeing the iconic company and this brilliant idea and seeing Sage and Timmy D and those guys kind of run with it, it’s a pretty big deal, but it’s kind of what Iowa entrepreneurs are all about — especially the ag community,” Settles said. “So many of the families that have made it big are always giving back to the community, trying to help other people’s lives and their family’s no different.”

We all have rooting interests when the Cyclones and Hawkeyes meet, but before (and hopefully after) kickoff, we’re all Iowans pulling together as friends and neighbors — on a local and global scale.

“There is really almost no overhead in these things,” Rosenfels said of the Safe T Homes, some 300 of which have been built in Haiti, Peru and on the African continent. “The Sukups aren’t making any money (off of them). I think the amazing story is that they are using their technology and their engineering for something other than just making money. They’ve actually decided to use it for good — to help people and not profit off it, and I think that’s a really neat aspect of the Sukup’s role in all this. There’s really no overhead. We all hear about these huge nonprofits and waste and this and that. We all know how much these things cost. We know how much they cost to build. You just get people to build them — we can build them ourselves.”

So before the chants start and the catcalls cascade downward, visit and applaud the handful of former players on both sides of this rivalry laboring to put a Safe T Home together.

It’s an example of Iowa ingenuity that brings us together, before we drift apart.

It’s saved lives and buoyed spirits.

It’s strong as steel and impossible to disassemble, save about three hours on a late Saturday afternoon when the FOX cameras turn their attention to the football field.

“We’re all Iowans, but we know when to turn it on and when to turn it off,” Settles said. “Once the ball is kicked, we probably won’t be hanging out too much with each other.”

The division’s temporary. The push for good remains durable.

“I’m intrigued by the simplicity and the sturdiness and the effectiveness, what I call a housing solution that costs $7,000,” Rosenfels said. “I like thinking about things on kind of global, game-changing stages so to me, it’s a super-fascinating project. I think it has real possibility. I think when people see these things at the south end of Kinnick they’ll be like, ‘Wow. Amazing.’ And maybe one of those (people) is a booster that wants to buy 10 of them and put them somewhere. They’re just an amazing, amazing invention.”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.