Belton's enjoying a home game with the Hawks
While many of his future teammates have enjoyed getting together and watching the Iowa football team at Kinnick Stadium this season, Dane Belton was wrapping up his senior year down in Tampa, Florida.
He never felt left out by his future teammates, who have grown extremely close thanks to a group text chat that has solidified the bond between all the members of the Class of 2019 recruits.
“We are all really close,” Dane Belton said. “It’s been great to build a strong relationship with everyone in our class even though I don’t get to see them very often.”
As the Iowa season went on the Hawkeyes clinched the opportunity to go to a bowl game. Little did Belton know that the Hawkeyes would be coming to his hometown of Tampa in late December for their sixth trip to the Outback Bowl.
“I had to go on twitter right away and let everyone know my guys were coming to my city. It’s great that they are here and I can come see them now since I didn’t get to go see them during the season,” Dane Belton said.
Since the Iowa football team has arrived in town, Belton and his family have attended practices and it’s giving him a look at what his future will be like once he arrives in Iowa City this summer. His one takeaway was very simple.
“There are no plays off,” he said. “They practice with a lot of enthusiasm and they run and don’t walk to everything.”
While many of his future teammates have been to games in Iowa City, several of the future Hawkeyes are planning to be in Tampa for the bowl game and they will be meeting up before the bowl game.
“Ezra (Miller) said right away in our group chat that he was coming down. I know Tyler (Goodson) will be coming down as well and Yahweh (Jeudy) is coming up for the game as well. We are talking about getting together at the game.”
What’s interesting about Dane Belton is how a young man from Tampa ended up signing with the Hawkeyes.
Iowa has always recruited the state of Florida. The Sunshine State is filled with high level football prospects, but Belton has a special connection to the Hawkeyes that played a role in his commitment.
Growing up in southeast Iowa near Keokuk in the early 80’s, it was natural that Danny Belton, Dane’s father, would become a Hawkeye fan.
The Iowa football program was riding high under the direction of Hayden Fry and like many teenagers, he wanted to make his way to Iowa City for college. Belton attended the University of Iowa from 1987-89 and admitted he enjoyed college life while he was in Iowa City.
What didn’t end when he left the University of Iowa was his love of the Hawkeyes.
“I have always loved the Hawkeyes and every time they are on TV, I would watch them and cheer for them,” Danny Belton said.
Fast forward to 30 years after he left the University of Iowa when Danny will get to see his son in an Iowa football uniform next fall.
It was sometime in his sophomore year when Danny Belton realized that his son might have a future in the game of football playing at the highest level of the college game.
An influential coach talked to Danny about Dane. He had experience coaching players who had played at a high level in college football and in the NFL. He gave examples of players that Dane seems to share traits with and from that point on, they started to pursue football at a more serious level.
“Before his junior year I took him to camps at Iowa and Iowa State,” Danny Belton said. “Honestly, we didn’t know what to think at that point. They said they liked what they saw, but at that point, you really don’t know what to think or where it might go.”
Then in his junior year the offers starting coming in with the first coming from South Florida. Eventually, there were over 20 offers on the table, including one from the Hawkeyes.
Dane Belton remembers that offer call when it came from Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker.
“Coach Parker is kind of old school,” Dane Belton said. “We talked about how I would fit into their schemes and how they would use me and then he told me he was offering me a scholarship.”
But, there was still more recruiting work to be done, including visits to several other schools.
With the changes to the recruiting process that began with Belton’s class, potential recruits were allowed to take official visits starting in the spring. The Iowa coaches planned a big recruiting weekend just before the end of the official visit window at the end of June. Belton was one of the select group of prospects that was invited, but he had a decision to make.
“I had been thinking about the Iowa visit for a while, but I also had a big 7 on 7 tournament that same weekend. I decided the visit was more important and I’m glad I did. I got to meet the other recruits on the visit, spend time with the coaches, and also meet some of the players,” Dane Belton said. “It was a great visit.”
Belton didn’t waste any more time. Following the visit he returned home and knew Iowa would be his choice.
One thing his father had made clear from the beginning was he didn’t want his love of Iowa influence his decision. He wanted his son to arrive at his college choice on his own.
Dane Belton did and he knew once he picked Iowa, his father would be happy.
“I knew he would be excited, but I knew I had to make the decision on my own. After all the visits, I knew Iowa was the best place for me.”
As for dad, well let’s just say, he was pretty pleased.
“I had really tried to keep my feelings to myself, but I was to the moon excited,” he said with a smile.
A big part of the decision for Belton was the success that Iowa defensive coordinator and defensive back coach Phil Parker has had putting players in the NFL. That’s the ultimate goal and dream of any scholarship football player and Parker has done that in recent years with players like Micah Hyde, Desmond King, Josh Jackson, and probably current Hawkeye Amani Hooker.
“That was a big thing. He knows what he’s doing,” Dane Belton said. “He played defensive back and he’s coached it and knows what it takes to get to the next level. He can help me to achieve what I want in football.”
Dane Belton and his family will be able to enjoy one Iowa game together in the stands on January 1st for the Outback Bowl and then starting this fall the dynamic will change. The Belton’s will be proud parents and for his father, it means regular visits to Iowa and to Kinnick Stadium.
“We are going to be at every game starting next year,” Danny Belton said. “We don’t want to miss a single game next year and be there for him 100%. We want to be there for him and want him to know that we will be there for him.”