IOWA CITY, Ia. – Greg Suckow lives a normal life in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul metro in Minnesota. But for the past nine years, he’s been known to Iowa fans as “Hawkeye Elvis”.
The man known as Elvis is a native of Ogden, Iowa, a town I’m very familiar with, myself growing up in Madrid, both towns located in Boone County, just north of Des Moines. Suckow also has a connection to my family as he has known my uncle since they competed against each other in high school.
Suckow has become a household sight for Iowa fans on social media, as he has garnered nearly 5,500 followers on Twitter and is as diehard of a Hawkeye fan as they come, and it has been that way since the beginning. “When you grow up in state of Iowa, we don’t have any pro teams to support, everyone cheers for one of the state universities”, Suckow said, “In the 70s you had Donnie Duncan at Iowa State and they were pretty good”. Suckow’s hometown of Ogden is mere 20-minute drive on Highway 30 from Ames.
“When Hayden Fry got to Iowa, he gave them their first winning season in 17 years, and so you picked one or the other and a bunch of my friends were Iowa State fans”, Suckow said. “But I don’t know why I was just drawn to the University of Iowa: Hayden Fry, the Tigerhawk, Lute Olson and it just sort of grabbed my attention so I went black and gold”
Suckow also mentioned how many of his generation across the state had the same feelings as him “Many people of my generation were like ‘man, Hayden Fry is so cool, and Lute Olson is so cool and the Tigerhawk’.”
During this time period, Iowa State was somewhat overshadowed in the old Big Eight due to powerhouses like Nebraska and Oklahoma and Iowa was getting more exposure as a member of the Big Ten.
Despite his love and passion for his Hawkeyes, Suckow never attended the University of Iowa. “I went undergrad at Truman State” Suckow said, “I worked at the television station in Ottumwa and covered the Hawkeyes as part of my work and after two years moved to Mount Vernon for two and a half years, so I’ve still been in and around the University of Iowa”. Suckow said he planned on attending Iowa to receive his master’s in journalism, but his workload did not allow him to see it through.
The conversation then turned to the origins of the “Hawkeye Elvis” persona and where the seeds were planted. “My mom was a huge Elvis fan growing up and that got passed on me”, Suckow said. “When I was a kid, I would listen to my mom’s ‘78 records of Elvis, I grew up loving Elvis”.
Suckow says the idea came to him following Iowa’s loss to Michigan in 2006. “Before the game, there was a guy walking around in a black and gold jumpsuit, and I thought it was awesome”.
Suckow then added the vision really came to him when Iowa beat Indiana in 2009. “It was Halloween, everybody is wearing costumes because it was actually Halloween day, everyone had all of these fantastic Iowa-themed costumes and I came home, and I asked my mom to make me an Elvis jumpsuit that’s Iowa-themed”.
Hawkeye Elvis made his first appearance in 2010, when Iowa knocked off #5 Michigan State the day before Halloween “I stepped off the train with the wig, jumpsuit and glasses and people loved it, they thought it was amazing”.
It then made an encore appearance during the Iowa-Michigan basketball game that season. “I moved right down to the floor because no one was going to game’s because Fran [McCaffery] was in his first year of the rebuild, so I wore it to a basketball game and people loved it, so next year I wore it to one of two football games, one or two basketball games and it snowballed from there”.
Suckow says the persona took off following Iowa’s victory over #12 North Carolina in basketball in 2014 with a picture of him behind Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury. “Gesell drives to the lane, gets fouled and gets knocked to floor, I jump he’s landing on my feet, Woody helps him up and I was pointing and celebrating with them. I didn’t know anything about the picture until well after the game”.
“After that I started to make a lot of connections with local Iowa media, Mike Hlas had me on his podcast, Mark Woodley at Channel 7 in Waterloo did a story on me and a couple years ago Michael Admire did a piece on me for Channel 13 in Des Moines and it just kept growing from there”, Suckow said of his social growth.
Then it was time for the memories to come out as Suckow said the best sporting event he ever attended with the suit on was the 2016 Rose Bowl when Iowa lost to Stanford.
“The day was fantastic, except for the 3 ½ hours of the game” Suckow said of New Year’s Day 2016. “I had been to the Rose Bowl in 2001 when Drew Brees was in his senior year at Purdue and I told myself ‘OK, I’m never coming back to Rose Bowl until Iowa plays here’ and when we got home from the Big Ten Championship game, we heard we got the Rose Bowl and it was fantastic”.
The conversation then turned to his greatest memory in the suit, regardless of sports and any other events. This past Saturday, Suckow visited the Dance Marathon taking place at the Iowa Memorial Union and believed it was the greatest thing he had ever done in the suit.
“I had never been to Dance Marathon, I had done appearances at other things, but Dance Marathon was amazing for a couple reasons”, Suckow said. “First, I had some friends, and one of my friends had a cousin who was a Dance Marathon family, their daughter had beaten childhood leukemia, so I got to see them there”
That wasn’t the only heart-warming story from his Dance Marathon appearance.
“As I was getting ready to leave, another girl grabbed me and said, ‘Hey Elvis, would you come with us please because there’s a boy in our family and he’s a huge Elvis fan and he would love to meet you.’ So how can you say no that?”, Suckow said.
“To go up with all the Dance Marathon people and to go up in the room and see that kid and see his face light up when I walked in and hear his parents tell his story and to just take a few minutes and say ‘Hi’ to the kid and put a smile on his face, that’s more important than any sports thing I’ve ever done”
The conversation ended with the question “Why do you keep doing the Hawkeye Elvis persona?”.
“Personally, it’s fun for me, I’m a bit of a ham anyway” Suckow said with a chuckle. “But for me, it’s the fun people have with it at the games, I’m amazed still, I show up to Kinnick and Carver and people still want their picture with me, no one’s gotten tired of it and every time I go, someone’s mom or someone’s grandma or one of the students wants a photo and it’s fun and I enjoy putting a smile on people’s faces and if they still like it, I’m going to keep doing it”.