CEDAR FALLS — Parker Hesse and Marcus Weymiller played in the same offensive backfield for so many years they can’t imagine what it will be like to not be side-by-side.
Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, the Waukon natives will find out.
Hesse’s Iowa Hawkeye football team is hosting Weymiller’s University of Northern Iowa squad in a 6:30 p.m. kickoff that has the entire Northeast Iowa community of Waukon — all 3,900-plus residents — buzzing.
Instead of the 1-2 punch they provided when Waukon reached the 2013 Class 2A state championship game, Weymiller, the Panthers’ leading rusher in 2017, will be trying to avoid Hesse, the Hawkeyes’ standout defensive end.
That’s different for two players whose relationship dates back to kindergarten and who consider themselves best friends.
From spring breaking together last spring in Cancun to tubing and kayaking down the Mississippi River every offseason with high school friends to FaceTiming on a weekly basis, it could be said Hesse and Weymiller are like brothers.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together,” Hesse smiled when asked about the relationship during Iowa’s media day in August. “We met in kindergarten and have been best friends ever since.
“We’ve played a lot of football together. We were right next to each other in the same backfield a lot growing up. This will be the first time on opposite sides. That will be different.”
As close as the two are, Weymiller says the normal dialog between he and Hesse is usually fast and loose with no topic safe or off limits. It’s been more subdued in recent weeks.
“I congratulated him Sunday on playing a good game against Iowa State,” Weymiller said. “Honestly, we FaceTime almost every week. This season, however, it has been a little different. We’ve never played each other so the conversations ... it has been a little more general, no details.”
This matchup almost didn’t happen.
After terrorizing the local youth flag and tackle leagues as teammates, “we won the third grade flag football Super Bowl,” recalled Weymiller, the duo was equally as imposing on the prep scene.
During their junior and senior seasons, quarterback Hesse and tailback Weymiller combined to rush for 4,991 yards and 83 touchdowns. During the 2A state title run, the now 6-foot-3, 261-pound Hesse passed for 1,439 yards and 16 scores, while rushing for 1,273 and 23 more. Weymiller, 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, rushed for 1,580 yards and 25 touchdowns, while also hauling in 31 passes for 527 yards and eight scores.
Weymiller joked he’d would’ve scored more, but felt obligated to throw Hesse a bone or two once in a while.
“We had a lot of fun in the backfield together,” smiled Weymiller. “There is a funny story there. I’d take a lot of carries down the field, get us in the red zone and then I’d turn to him and say, ‘You can take this one in, I’m tired.’”
Both were good enough to continue at the college level. Weymiller accepted an offer to come to UNI. It looked like Hesse would follow him to Cedar Falls, before legend has it Hesse had one memorable summer camp in Iowa City and plans changed.
Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley, a Waukon native himself, thought he had Hesse, too.
“I actually think he would’ve came here if he had not been offered by Iowa going down the stretch, and that is true of three or four football players on that team,” Farley said. “I know his mom (Marcia) and dad (Perry) very well. They are only a few years younger than I am.
“Waukon is not that big. We all come from the same blood up there. He (Hesse) is exactly what you should get from Waukon, a hard-nosed kid that plays hard and he has.”
Saturday’s experience certainly will be different for Hesse and Weymiller. They say it will be fun and exciting, but more for their friends and family and the Waukon community. For them, it is easier for them to look at the game more intrinsically.
“It will be a special moment for us, but I think it is probably more exciting for our friends and families,” Hesse said. “For the both of us, I think, we see it more objectively and that is how you look at anything to be successful. I don’t think playing against each other will change our performance either way.”
“It is a pretty big deal back home, we realize that, but honestly, I just want to play well and help us win, make sure we play better than our last game and I’m sure he is saying the same thing,” added Weymiller.
Rumor has it a good portion of Waukon will be inside Kinnick for the game Saturday to witness two of the best players to come out of the community play against each other.
“It is a big thing for Allamakee County,” Weymiller said. “It is exciting for all of them to not only have one player playing in a big game, but two. It means a lot to a lot of people and I hope it inspires a lot of young kids that when they see two of us playing in Kinnick Stadium that someday they can do it, too.
“I have gotten a lot of texts and messages from friends and family who have never been to an Iowa or a UNI game, but they’ve made a point to come to this one.”