Comet Gridiron Club to hold ‘Football Night’ fundraiser on March 25
By John Burbridge
CHARLES CITY — Bob Kloberdanz was given a choice between playing experience and The Experience.
He chose the latter and doesn’t regret it.
As an ambitious but under-sized linebacker at Waldorf University, Kloberdanz never gave up on the hope of ascending to the Division I level. When he decided to transfer as a walk-on at University of Iowa, he was told he would be playing behind an All-American, likely limiting his opportunities between the sidelines.
Still, no regrets.
“Coming out of the tunnel at Kinnick Stadium and hearing the roar of 70,000 people cheering … there’s nothing louder in the world,” Kloberdanz said. “It made the hair on my head stand up straight … of course that’s when I had more hair.”
As an alumni who attends most Hawkeye home games, Kloberdanz gets another ethereal experience at the end of the first quarter when fans, players, coaches and referees turn to Hawkeye Wave at the pediatric patients and their families watching the game from the nearby perch at the adjacent UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital — a tradition born in 2017.
“It’s hard to imagine what those kids and their families are going through,” he said. “I feel very fortunate about my family and myself, and moments like that make me realize that more.”
The Charles City businessman’s eyes were opened even more to the plight of the less fortunate while serving as an assistant coach for the Comets just ahead of the school’s most-recent homecoming game against playoff-bound Hampton-Dumont-CAL.
“We found out that about 20% of our players didn’t have anything to eat before the game,” Kloberdanz said. “How can you play football for more than two-and-a-half hours and have nothing in the tank?”
Such a dilemma may have contributed to some games getting away from the Comets after they played competitive first halves — like against the Bulldogs, Decorah and in the season-finale against West Delaware.
“It could be that some of them don’t have food at home, or no one is there to cook for them,” Kloberdanz said. “It’s sad when we take a team photo that some of our guys can’t afford to get individual pictures … or when they can’t get money from their families to pay for gloves, cleats … mouthguards.”
Kloberdanz is a member of the Iowa Football Club, a fraternal organization whose members are all former University of Iowa football players, coaches, managers, trainers and support staff. The non-profit IFC was established so members can reconnect and network with fellow Hawkeyes.
The IFC supports various charities across the state, including those that support the aforementioned Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad Cities, Children’s Cancer Connection and the HavLife Hunter Aaron Vondran Memorial Foundation.
The club also looks out for its own members, who help each other out when needed.
Kloberdanz tapped into that resource when he got fellow IFC member and former Hawkeye star linebacker Matt Hughes, who played in the NFL, to speak at a Comet football camp last summer.
Kloberdanz got to thinking that maybe Charles City needs a smaller-scale version of the IFC, and he again leaned on a fraternal member for assistance.
“I’m not a lawyer, but one of our (IFC) board members (Roman Terrill) is,” Kloberdanz said of the guidance he received in creating the Comet Gridiron Club, a 501-c3 non-profit organization. “It was a lot of work and now I have to file another tax form every year, but we need something like this … something to help our players and coaches ‘leave the jersey in a better place’ when they graduate or move on from the program.”
As mentioned in its mission statement, the main purpose of the club is to provide immediate support to (the) football program by creating a foundation for camaraderie, motivation and financial backing.
Accrued funds are to go toward student-athlete development and growth, food and resource programs for the players, equipment needs and possibly scholarship awards for graduating seniors in good standing.
The Comet Gridiron Club will hold its first major fundraiser — Football Night in Charles City — on March 25 at the Knights of Columbus-Charles City, 502 Clark St., starting at 5 p.m.
In addition to dinner, which will include smoke brisket, cheesy potatoes, baked beans as well as other food entrees; there will be a ticket-stub raffle for a chance to win a Blackstone Grill; and a silent auction for autographed jerseys from Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, National Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas; future Pro Football HOFer Jason Witten; a camouflage jersey from San Francisco 49er star receiver Deebo Samuel; Mike Bibby’s Arizona Wildcat jersey; and autographed apparel from “Coach Klein” from The Waterboy — a Jeopardy-type question/response “Who is Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler” would be correctamundo.
There will be other items, such as Hawkeye football tickets, included with the silent auction.
The keynote speaker for the event is University of Northern Iowa head football coach Mark Farley.
“We can thank Mike Molstead for getting us Mark Farley,” Kloberdanz said. “He has great connections at UNI. It’s good to know people.
Tickets are $25 at the door or may be purchased in advance for $20 — raffle ticket-stub included.
Advanced tickets are available at The Insurance Office, Inc.—Kloberdanz Insurance, 200 N. Main St.; and at Fidelity Bank and Trust, 601 Gilbert St.
For more information, contact Kloberdanz at (641) 228-3516.