For incoming freshmen at the University of Iowa, there is a simple three-word motto each student learns right away when they first set foot on campus.
“Hawks help hawks.”
And for former Hawkeyes football players Mark Weisman and James Daniels, the two have proven the motto isn’t just limited to the confines of Iowa City, Iowa.
For five weeks, Weisman has been helping Daniels prepare for his fourth season with the Chicago Bears by training him at SPEAR Training Center in Vernon Hills, Ill. — where Weisman is a sports performance coach.
“When we train, it isn’t all about weights,” Daniels said. “Like you saw, we were talking about Iowa for some of the workout, which was nice.”
Although Daniels and Weisman both played for the Hawkeyes, they never were teammates.
Weisman walked on at the University of Iowa in 2011 after transferring from the Air Force Academy as a fullback. He eventually earned a scholarship at Iowa and became a three-year starter as a running back. He then signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals before being cut during the 2015 preseason.
After his brief stint in the NFL, Weisman knew he wanted to utilize his health and human physiology degree, so he got into the strength and conditioning field.
“I love being part of a team and kind of giving back,” Weisman said. “That’s what I wanted to do. Be a coach and give back the ways coaches gave back to me and impacted my life.”
Weisman got an opportunity to do just that as an assistant strength and conditioning intern at Iowa in 2016. And this was when Weisman officially met Daniels for the first time — even though he did know him from his older brother LeShun, who was a running back at Iowa.
Weisman’s playing days helped him to relate with the players and this was something that Daniels appreciated while he was at Iowa.
“Mark is a good source because he’s played,” Daniels said. “He knows exactly what is hard for us. I mean he isn’t an offensive lineman, but he’s a bigger guy, so he knows what is hard for bigger people and how to coach us.”
Daniels played three seasons for the Hawkeyes before he was drafted by the Bears in 2018. For Weisman, who earned a full-time job as an assistant strength and conditioning coach — he saw how much Daniels grew not only physically but also as a leader.
“He came in as a young buck,” Weisman said. “You could just see the improvement in him. He continued to develop and he worked into a leadership role, which was awesome to see.”
After being at Iowa for four years, Weisman went on to become the director of strength and conditioning at Missouri State University. He held the position for one season and then realized he wanted to return close to home — which for Weisman is in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
Eventually, the former Iowa Hawkeye landed at SPEAR Training Center. Not long after, Weisman reached out to Daniels to get him into the 12,000 square foot facility with state-of-the-art equipment.
But first Daniels had to be cleared to train since he was still rehabbing from his torn pectoral muscle that he sustained in the Week 5 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
Around the end of OTAs, Daniels began going to SPEAR Training Center. Before he arrived, other members of the Bears’ offensive line trained there as well, including former left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and guard Cody Whitehair.
Throughout the five weeks Daniels was at SPEAR Training Center, it was common to see Whitehair, Elijah Wilkinson and Dieter Eiselen all training together for an hour to sometimes an hour and half.
During the workouts, like when Daniels was doing banded trap bar jumps to focus on increasing reactive strength, Weisman would be there with his phone and stopwatch in hand, tracking each rep.
Daniels wanted to work on “general strengthening” during his time at SPEAR Training Center and he accomplished that goal, but there is something else he felt has improved.
“I feel like the people here at SPEAR did a really good job helping with my mobility,” Daniels said. “Helping me work other muscles. Might not increase my squat max, but it will increase how good I am on the field.”
For Weisman, it was a no-brainer to reach out to Daniels. As the motto goes, “hawks help hawks,” and that never goes away.
“It’s a bond,” Weisman said. “We bleed black and gold. You graduate from there, you play at Iowa and want to stay in touch as much as we can. There’s that shared bond that you have forever. You want to help hawks see hawks succeed. It’s awesome that James is on the Bears. It gives you a reason to root from them. I love the Bears, but I love rooting for Hawkeyes, too.”