Newton Nite Hawks
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|League||Chicagoland Football League, Northern States Football League|
|Team history||Newton Nite Hawks
|Based in||Newton, Iowa|
|Arena||H.A. Lynn Field|
|Colors||Gold and Black|
|General manager||Jim Foster|
|Championships||CFL Championship (1975), European Professional Football Championship (1977)|
The Newton Nite Hawks were a semi-pro American football team that played in Newton, Iowa from 1974-1978. They were members of the Chicagoland Football League (CFL) and Northern States Football League (NSFL). They were the first professional or semi-professional team to play American football on the European continent.
Founded by local businessmen Jim Foster and Jim Williams in 1974, the Newton Nite Hawks were coached by Tom Ross during their first season. The team earned their first ever franchise victory by defeating the Brighton Park Bengals 48-0. After a slow start, the Nite Hawks went on to win 4 of their last 5 games and earned a spot in the CFL playoffs. They were the first team in CFL history to make the playoffs in their first year of operation. The Nite Hawks finished their inaugural season 5-5-1.
The 1975 season was a breakout year for the Nite Hawks. Jim Williams took over the head coaching duties as the team finished 10-2, won the American Division Title and captured the CFL championship with a 17-7 win over the Niles Saints. Statistically, the Nite Hawks led the league many categories, including total offense and total defense.
In their third year of existence, the 1976 Nite Hawks made the league playoffs for the third consecutive year under new coach Dick Altemeier. The team finished the season 6-5 after a loss to the Delavan (Wisconsin) Red Devils in the first round of the CFL playoffs.
The Newton Nite Hawks made football history in 1977. Through the entrepreneurial efforts of Jim Foster, the Newton Nite Hawks were chosen to play a 5-game football tour in Europe (see below) with the Chicago Lions in early June. After winning all 5 games in Europe, the Nite Hawks posted a 7-3 record in the 1977 NSFL regular season. Additionally, the Nite Hawks became a member of the Northern States Football League and played all home games at H. A. Lynn Field after three previous seasons at Holland Patterson Field. In their final year in Newton, the Nite Hawks finished 5-5 in 1978 under coach Herb Taylor.
In an effort to establish and promote American football in Europe, the Nite Hawks were the first professional team (pro or semi-pro) at any level to play American football on the European continent. Organized by the Intercontinental Football League (IFL), the Nite Hawks and league rival Chicago Lions played a 5 game tour in 3 countries during June, 1977. Games were played in Versailles, France; Lille, France; Landstuhl, Germany; Gratz Austria; and Vienna, Austria. The games in Lille and Gratz drew 21,000 and 13,000 fans respectively. The Nite Hawks swept the Lions, winning all 5 contests and the first (and only) European Professional Football Championship. The IFL attempted to schedule additional games in Linz, Austria and Bucharest, Romania, but logistics and politics proved too difficult for the contests to take place. Nite Hawk running back Mark Fetter scored the first professional touchdown on European soil, a 6 yard run en route to the Nite Hawk’s victory in Versailles, France.
The Nite Hawks played their home games in Newton at Holland-Patterson Memorial Field (1974–1976) and H. A. Lynn Field (1977–1978). The team often practiced at Industrial Park located in the north end of Newton.
Black and Gold
The Nite Hawks wore 3 uniform tops during their 5-year history:
- 1974-75: Black with gold numerals on front/back and shoulders. The sleeves were trimmed with the words IOWA on one sleeve, and HAWKS on the other.
- 1976-77: Black with gold numerals on front/back and shoulders. Small hawk logo placed on sleeves. The word IOWA was placed above the front chest numerals.
- 1978: Black with gold numerals on front/back and shoulders. The word NITE HAWKS was placed above the front chest numerals.
Road jerseys were white with black numerals and lettering.
Pants: Gold with single black stripe on each side.
Helmets: Gold shell with black center stripe. Circular black Nite Hawk insignia decals adorn each side of the helmet. Facemasks were grey.
Nite Hawks in the American Football Association (AFA) Minor League Pro Football Hall of Fame:
- 1982-Jim Foster, (Executive)
- 1991-Stan Allspach, QB (Player)
- 1994-Ron Wilson, WR (Player)
- 1996-Jim Williams, (Coach)
- 2003-Doug Fisher, DB (Player)
- 2004-David Summy, LB (Player)
- 2013-Steve "Bucky" Denton (Player)
- 2016-Larry Allen DE (Player)
- Jim Foster (GM, WR) –Developed patent for Arena Football
- Bill Larson (TE) –Played 3 years in NFL after finishing Nite Hawk career in 1976
- Karl Schueneman (OL)–Starred with Steve McQueen in the 1980 film The Hunter
- David Beckman (Assistant) –Former head coach of Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League
- Lightning Mitchell (RB) –Founder and Director of the Women's American Basketball Association
- Newton Daily News
- Des Moines Register
- Professional Football Researchers Association
- Minor League Football Hall of Fame
- American Football Association
- Associated Press. "Five Game Football Series Signals Move Into Europe?" Spokane Daily Chronicle 21 April 1977.
- Bob Blanchard. "Scouting Report”. Chicago Daily News May 25, 1977.
- Lowe, J.: "Nite Hawks Called Newton Home", Newton Daily News, P. 18.
- Ron Maly. "Nite Hawks a ‘Hit’ in Europe: Beatles-Type Fan Reaction for Football Team”. Des Moines Register June 16, 1977. 3S
- United Press International. “American Football Success In Europe”. Des Moines Register June 3, 1977.
- United Press International. "Europe to Get a Look at American Football". St. Petersburg Times, May 27, 1977 P. 29.