Jerry Hilgenberg, a former University of Iowa football player and coach who was a member of the Hawkeyes’ historic 1958 national championship squad, died on January 16, 2024, at age 92.
Hilgenberg was a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten center in 1953 and later worked as an assistant coach for Hall of Fame coach Forest Evashevski for eight years.
How Did Jerry Hilgenberg Die? Cause of Death Revealed
Jerry Hilgenberg, the last remaining assistant coach from Iowa’s 1958 national championship team, died at the age of 92. The cause of his death has not been officially confirmed.
Former Iowa All-American center and assistant coach Jerry Hilgenberg died at age 92.
Hilgenberg was the last surviving assistant from Iowa’s 1958 Big Ten, Rose Bowl and national title team.
Hilgenberg is the father of former @ChicagoBears center @JayHilgenberg.
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) January 16, 2024
Hilgenberg, a standout Hawkeye player and prominent coach, had an unmistakable effect on Iowa football, helping the team win multiple games and championships. His legacy goes beyond the field, influencing the lives of people he mentored, collaborated with, and coached.
Kirk Ferentz, the University of Iowa’s head coach, pays tribute to him as a first-class guy and extends his condolences to the Hilgenberg family. Jerry Hilgenberg’s death has left the Hawkeye community lamenting the passing of a real legend.
A Star on the Field and in the Classroom
Hilgenberg was born on June 17, 1931, in Wilton, Iowa. He attended Wilton High School and excelled at football, basketball, baseball, and track. He received a football scholarship to the University of Iowa, where he played center for three seasons (1951–1953).
He was a crucial element of Iowa’s attack, which included quarterback Eddie Podolak and running back Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner. Hilgenberg was a dominant blocker and leader on the field. In 1953, he was voted a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten, joining guard Cal Jones as Evashevski’s first two All-Americans.
He also helped the Hawkeyes finish with a 9-1 record and a No. 9 national ranking in 1953, the program’s greatest result since 1939. Hilgenberg was also an outstanding student, receiving Academic All-District and All-Big Ten recognition as a senior.
He also lettered in baseball in 1952 and 1953, serving as co-captain in his senior year. In 1954, he graduated from Iowa with a business administration degree.
A Hawkeye Legend and a Hall of Famer
Hilgenberg received honors and recognition for his efforts and contributions to Iowa football and the university. He was inducted into the Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1995 and selected for several all-time Hawkeye teams, including Iowa’s All-Century Team in 1989.
He was also nominated to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. Hilgenberg was highly respected and admired by his colleagues, players, and fans. He was hailed as a first-rate individual, a visionary leader, a creative producer, and a generous mentor.
He was one of Iowa football’s most important and beloved individuals, leaving an indelible mark on both the team and the university.
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