Matt Rosacker: An Iowa State tailgater who lives for having a good time

Matt Rosacker (left) has been tailgating at Iowa State home games since he moved to Ames in 1996.

Matt Belinson

The decades-long tradition of tailgating has become commonplace at professional and collegiate football games all across the country. 

Beer, cornhole and the smell of red meat cooking are all elements synonymous with tailgating for football fans. However, while many tailgates feature the same type of food and beverages, there are some tailgates that feature unique fans with even more unique stories on why and how they ended up dedicating their Saturday mornings to cheering on Iowa State football. 

One of those unique tailgates is hosted by the Rosacker family. The Rosacker tailgate features a Northern Iowa graduate, a former Iowa State Athletic Department employee and a batch of themes to make each tailgate stand out from the last.

The man who gets the reputation of being “the star of the show”, Matt Rosacker, has been tailgating and cheering for Iowa State football since he moved to Ames in 1996.

Rosacker went to Northern Iowa for college, but did not follow its football or basketball teams while he was there.

Once he left Northern Iowa he moved to Ames and met his wife, Erin.

Erin, like her husband, did not go to Iowa State, but instead graduated from the University of Iowa. Erin then made her way around the state of Iowa after she left college. She worked at Drake and then went to Grinnell College for a year.

Once Matt and Erin met and lived together in Ames, Erin’s job in the Iowa State athletic department would start a tradition of tailgating that Matt and Erin have kept going ever since.

“He’s all in with Iowa State,” said Erin. “When he got here he was all excited about Big 12 football, so he was an easy sell.”

“If you’re a sports nut, then you are always a sports nut, and being in a college town makes you just get caught up in it, even if you don’t go here.”

Erin’s job in the athletic department gave her free tickets to football games, which Matt saw as an opportunity to tailgate.

Matt took a page out of one his coworker’s books and looked into buying a recreational vehicle (RV) for tailgating.

Matt said that when he bought the RV, it had one purpose and one purpose only: to tailgate for Iowa State football.

“It’s for one purpose only, I’m not going to the lake with it or anything,” Matt said. “The wife was only OK with the RV if it had a nice bathroom. Once I found one that did, that put her over the top.”

The Rosackers named their first RV “Cousin Eddie,” based off the character from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The RV was a 1977 coachman RV and even had the license plate spelling out “Cousin Eddie.”

The Rosackers now own a camper to provide more space inside for tables and food.

Even though “Cousin Eddie” is gone and old staples of the Rosackers tailgate have changed, many old and new friends feel the impact of their tailgate to this day.

One of those old friends who is still close with the Rosackers is Mike Green. Green has been the Iowa State football sports information director since 2013, but has known Matt and Erin long before he took the position in the football program.

Green attended Northern Iowa and met Matt in the dorms after Matt transferred there. Matt and Green were in the same social circles and got along all throughout college.

Green ended up obtaining his master’s degree from Iowa State and ended up working with Matt’s now-wife, Erin.

One weekend, Matt came to visit Green in Ames, but then he met and started talking with Erin. According to Green, they hit it off immediately. 

Once Matt and Erin became a couple, Matt fell in love with Iowa State athletics, Green said. Green says he can see why Matt loved Iowa State athletics so quickly, as Northern Iowa provided a much different experience.

“When you go to games at UNI and Iowa State, it is night and day,” said Green. 

Green may work for the football program in an official capacity, but still keeps in contact with Matt and they get to see each other about twice a month. Green said he views Matt as a true fan and a model that other schools and fans should want to have represent their program.

One story came to his mind as a clear example of how passionate Matt’s fandom has become since he began tailgating.

“One Cy-Hawk game it was down to the wire and Erin started videotaping Matt because Iowa State needed to score,” said Green.

Iowa State won on a late score and as soon as it went final, he started hugging everyone and hugging strangers; it was a true Cyclone fan living on the edge and having true excitement for the team.

“We need more guys like that, every school needs someone like that who is passionate about the school.”

One of the big reasons Green says Iowa State’s athletic department has risen in ticket purchases and fan attendance in the last ten years is because of Iowa State’s stance on fans and tailgating.

“Iowa State has embraced that niche because we don’t frown upon people in the tailgate lots; matter of fact, we want people to have fun out there,” Green said.

Another friend the Rosackers have found since they have tailgated and made their mark at Iowa State is Ron Collison, also known as “Hog Farmer” to the Rosackers and many others.

Collison said he got the nickname “Hog Farmer” in high school. It eventually carried over to college and now his friends and family occasionally refer to him as a “Hog Farmer” when bringing him up in conversation.

Collison met Matt and Erin between 2002-2003 when the Rosackers and Collison had to move their tailgate to lot D3 of Jack Trice. 

“It is only because of tailgating I know them,” Collison said. “When I met them, we hit it off right away. [Matt’s] a funny guy.”

Collison graduated from Iowa State in 1990 and first began using a pickup truck as his main vehicle for tailgating. Once Collison moved back to Cedar Rapids after he got out of the Navy in 2000, he spoke with some of his friends and wanted to “get a bus” for tailgating at Iowa State games.

He wanted to make the tailgates more fun for everyone involved and eventually bought an actual bus for his new tailgate. Collison painted the bus and used it for about 10 years.

His spirit and enthusiasm allowed him to connect with Matt and Erin quickly and since the day they met, Collison has seen it as a big success.

“It’s been a blast and it’s really amazing how far it’s come,” Collison said.

Erin said she knows why about half a dozen to 50 people like when Collison shows up to their tailgate every week, and it all comes back to Matt’s intense love for Iowa State. Plain and simple, it’s because Matt is the entertainment.

“He is the sun of this universe, all this stuff floats around him and we all show up to watch him perform each Saturday,” Erin said.

A recent innovation in the Rosackers’ tailgate is the closed Facebook group created by Erin.

In the Facebook group, Erin announces each week’s particular theme that their guests and friends should fit into for what type of food and clothes they should bring. For example, the 2019 opener against Northern Iowa had the theme, “It’s good to be[er] back!”

Erin said that throughout the years, themes have ranged from Christmas Vacation to ”[Br]ocktoberfest” and Halloween costumes.

Matt enjoys having the themes for each week to be its own different experience for everyone involved, as he values the camaraderie of the tailgate and the fun that comes with it.

“When I’m here on Saturday I am locked in, I don’t go anywhere,” Matt said. “I can’t control the outcome of the game but I can control the good time we have before.”