Greg Suckow gleefully posed for pictures Friday with anybody who asked during Iowa’s 83-73 loss to San Diego State at Orleans Arena. He cheered. He danced. He even pretended a mop was a guitar during a timeout.
All while wearing his custom Iowa-themed Elvis Presley costume.
On his 50th birthday.
Suckow, known in Iowa as “Hawkeye Elvis,” traveled from Eagan, Minnesota, to Las Vegas to watch his beloved Hawkeyes play basketball in celebration of his birthday. He planned his trip almost two years for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational and sat courtside during Iowa’s two games, surrounded by family, friends and fellow Hawkeyes fans.
“The day I found out Iowa was playing in a tournament here is the day I bought the tickets,” Suckow said. “It all just snapped right into place.”
Suckow hails from Ogden, Iowa — population 1,994 — and said Iowans either root for Iowa or Iowa State because there are no local pro teams. He chose Iowa but didn’t attend many games growing up before relocating to Minnesota about 20 years ago to work in real estate. He bought Iowa football season tickets in 2004 and men’s basketball season tickets in 2009.
He has attended almost every home game since, commuting upward of four hours each way.
A lifelong Presley fan, Suckow asked his mother to sew a custom Hawkeye Elvis costume before Iowa’s football game against Michigan State on Halloween weekend in 2010. He wore it to the Hawkeyes’ 37-6 victory and “everybody loved it.”
“The next year I wore it to two football games, and then I started to wear it more and more,” he said. “When I wouldn’t wear it, people would be like, ‘Hey, how come Elvis isn’t here today? Man, we need you.’”
Suckow has four custom costumes now and is in character for almost every home football or basketball game he attends. He roots for Iowa alongside a group of friends known as the “Hawkeye Elvis Mafia” — an homage to a group of Presley’s friends and associates known as the “Memphis Mafia” — and leads cheers during games.
His costumes don’t have any pockets, so friends hold things like his keys, wallet or cellphone and are rewarded with black shirts that read “Hawkeye Elvis Mafia” in yellow lettering.
“It’s incredible, just the energy that surrounds everything,” said Suckow’s nephew, Sam LaFollette. “People who have never seen him before and don’t know anything about him are like ‘That’s awesome. I want a picture with him.’ And I just absolutely love it. He will get entire sections fired up.”
Suckow’s energy and passion are genuine and contagious, even among Cyclones fans. Longtime friend Brad Niemeyer of Fort Dodge, Iowa, bucks his loyalty to Iowa State to support Suckow and the Hawkeyes.
As long as they’re not playing the Cyclones.
“It started out with a jumpsuit and going to the games, and look at him now,” Niemeyer said while Suckow posed for photos a few feet away. “This is great. It’s amazing to do this.”
Suckow celebrated every basket as the Hawkeyes raced to a 41-32 halftime lead over the Aztecs, who rallied in the second half for the victory. San Diego State guard Malachi Flynn scored a game-high 28 points.
But Suckow’s enthusiasm never wavered.
“It’s so much fun being able to be Hawkeye Elvis and being able to be Elvis in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”