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  VanValkenburg's three years of experience before coming to Iowa, he said, played a role in his quick transition. This spring, Ferentz felt VanValkenburg looked more confident than ever on the field. "Some call (VanValkenburg) a marquee guy, but he wasn't two years ago, not a big story, but he turned out to be a really good fit," Ferentz said. Now a leader of a young defensive line group, VanValkenburg said the difference between Day 1 and Day 15 of spring practice was staggering for him and his teammates, which was needed for a unit that lost three key veterans last season. Redshirt freshmen tackle Yahya Black and right end Deontae Craig made their way on the pre-fall depth chart. "Yahya surprises me every day, I just walked by him like this guy is as big as offensive tackles, and he's super athletic and really smart," VanValkenburg said. "I think the strength is, everyone is selfless, ready to play their role. It's not an NFL locker room where you're just grabbing people and throwing them together - we're a tight-knit group. We've been together for a while, even the freshmen have been here a couple years."

That selflessness transfers into his off-the-field branding. Recently, VanValkenburg joined teammates Jack Koerner and Tommy Kujawa to launch an apparel line called "The Walk-On Mentality," where 50 percent of the money made off the apparel or company partnerships will benefit a scholarship fund for walk-on athletes across the country. While not a walk-on himself, VanValkenburg believes the message can resonate with Division II transfers like him. "Technically, I'm not a walk-on, I'm a Division II transfer, but I do understand the power of that mentality," VanValkenburg said in an interview with KGGO radio station on Monday. "My two roommates are walk-ons, so I've seen the work they've had to go through to be successful. You don't get the same preferred privileges or scholarships, but you still do all the work, obviously school as well." - The Gazette


(DS#33 DE) rSr/2022 DE Zach VanValkenburgIowa
News Source: The Gazette


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