Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Noah Shannon (99) against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday, September 7, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Noah Shannon (99) against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday, September 7, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium. — Photo provided by Max Allen/hawkeyesports.com

IOWA CITY – Noah Shannon and the Iowa football program held to a simple motto in the weeks after the Big Ten announced it was postponing the sport to the spring.

Stay ready, so you don't have to get ready.

"Our coach has never really said the season will be in spring," said Shannon, a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman and former All-Stater at Oswego. "Everybody had an idea that the Big Ten might work something out. We were still preparing to be ready for a game."

The preparation can begin in earnest now.

That comes after the Big Ten's announcement on Wednesday that it will kick off the football season Oct. 24. The league's presidents and chancellors unanimously voted to resume competition, less than five weeks after postponing football and other fall sports to spring amid safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league cited the daily rapid-response COVID-19 testing, not available at the time of the original vote, as one reason for its decision to change course. Each team will attempt to play eight games in eight weeks, with a Big Ten championship game and other extra cross-division games Dec. 19. Iowa plays at Purdue Oct. 24.

The reversal followed a month of public outcry against the postponements marked by a lawsuit from a group of Nebraska football players against the conference that was ultimately dropped, a parents' protest at Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont and political pressure from President Trump.

"Personally, I didn't think they were going to change their decision," Shannon said. "I thought it was set in stone. Somebody would have to say that they were wrong. I didn't think they would own up to it. They are doing what they need to do."

Iowa itself resumed workouts last week after a week-long pause stemming from a spike of 93 positive COVID-19 results within the athletic department – but Shannon is still on hold. He is in quarantine for another week after one of his roommates tested positive for the virus.

Iowa athletics last week announced 21 positive tests among 297 tests administered Aug. 31-Sept. 6, a 7.1 percent positivity rate.

Shannon's been in Iowa City since June for summer workouts, but fall camp was canceled in August after three practices.

It hasn't been easy sitting at home watching guys from other leagues around the country playing football this month.

"Our whole house was sitting watching the games," Shannon said. "It sucks. You definitely realize how much you love the game. When you sit back and can't play for a little bit, it's a different experience, a humbling experience."

As important as football is to Shannon, he has an understanding of the gravity of the situation with the pandemic. He's witnessed the different responses from state to state, with Iowa not requiring masks statewide and many more people from his observations opting to not wear masks in public than in Illinois.

Shannon's mom works at the health and wellness center at Northern Illinois University.

"She kind of has a different view," Shannon said. "She told me at the end of the day, it's my decision to play. She wants what's best for me, and to stay healthy."

Shannon is doing his best to do so.

While the state of Iowa has emerged as a national COVID-19 hot spot this month, Shannon only goes outside his house for food and football. All of his classes are online. Two other roommates tested positive in June, but since then nobody had tested positive until last week.

He's already been tested eight or nine times, with daily rapid COVID-19 testing for Big Ten athletes and coaches to begin on Sept. 30. That has Shannon feeling more secure about the season.

"For me, [the virus] is always in the back of my head, you're always thinking about it. College guys, football players, if we feel sick we usually don't tell people, that's the only thing that gets me," Shannon said. "I feel like with this daily testing you could tell people that you're not sick, but they'll know. I feel more comfortable with daily testing."

It has been a turbulent offseason for Iowa's program, in particular, but Shannon believes the group in the end has grown closer.

In June Iowa cut ties with longtime strength coach Chris Doyle after a number of Black former Iowa players, including James Daniels of the Chicago Bears, accused Doyle and the program of "racial disparities."

"That brought our team more together," Shannon said. "A lot of people feel like we have everybody's backs right now. The African-American players are starting to feel more comfortable and more accepted now. I feel like this team is more close-knit now."

Shannon, who saw action in seven games in 2019, said he was a "one" in the defensive line rotation, but that could change depending how practices go.

If anything, this year has prepared him to adapt.

"I don't think anything is set in stone with starting spots," Shannon said. "That is what [Iowa] coach [Kirk] Ferentz is always preaching to you. Stay ready, never know what will happen. It's 2020, anything can happen."