Oct. 25, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A disdain for domestic chores — specifically making his bed — sent a young Jared DeVries from a warm house and into frigid mornings to complete farm chores in Aplington, Iowa.
It was one of the coldest — and best — moves of his life.
DeVries might not be an expert on the “hospital corners” bed-making technique, but what he learned as a farm boy helped him become a collegiate football All-American and a 12-year NFL veteran.
DeVries, a defensive lineman for the Hawkeyes from 1995-98, is the second former Hawkeye named to the America Needs Farmers (ANF) Wall of Honor, which salutes former University of Iowa football student-athletes who exemplify the tenacity, work ethic, and character of the Iowa farmer.
“Our parents had a vision of what they wanted to teach us, and what a setting to teach us in,” DeVries said Friday at a news conference in the Paul W. Brechler Press Box in Kinnick Stadium. “It is hard work. Those chores needed to be done. That propelled me to what I am today and what I stand for. You do the right thing, no matter the obstacle, and that goes hand-in-hand with farming.”
DeVries was joined at the news conference by Denny Presnall, CEO of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.
“There is no question why Jared is a representative of ANF,” Presnall said. “They represent what we want the ANF to stand for: strong work ethic and family values. We’re so happy to have him as a part of ANF and the Wall of Honor.”
DeVries was a consensus All-American and team MVP at the UI. His name will be added alongside that of Casey Wiegmann, another product of what is now Aplington-Parkersburg High School. DeVries and Wiegmann are partners in a business, appropriately named Pigskin Farms.
“I kept my nose to the grindstone and that is the Iowa farmer, right? That’s what Iowa people stand for — you keep working, keep working, keep working. I took it off the farm and put it in a football setting. You get off the surgery table and you get back to work. Whatever the outcome is, I was going to be OK with it because I know I worked the hardest and best that I could. You gather those characteristics along the way.”
ANF Wall of Honor
“I’m extremely honored to accept this award and extremely honored to follow my great friend and business partner Casey Wiegmann in this award,” DeVries said.
After his final season as a Hawkeye, DeVries was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions, where he spent the next 12 seasons. If professional football wasn’t in the works, he would have been back on the farm a dozen years earlier.
“Farming is a passion,” DeVries said. “I told dad during my junior year at Iowa that if I didn’t make it to the next level I wanted to come back and farm. That was my second passion to football.”
Combines and tractors are bigger now than when DeVries cut his teeth on the vocation in small-town rural Iowa. But farming never left his blood.
“It’s a part of you, it’s in you. It’s what you are. It was my passion,” said DeVries, who lives in Clear Lake with his wife and two sons. “I am no longer able to play football and that was my second passion. It’s your bloodline. It keeps you ticking and getting up in the morning. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The grit and determination DeVries acquired by working on a farm served him well in the NFL, when he refused to allow numerous physical ailments to derail his career. There were injures to foot, Achilles tendon, knee, shoulder, rotator cuff, labrum. Even a blot clot that experts called career-ending couldn’t stop him.
“I kept my nose to the grindstone and that is the Iowa farmer, right?” DeVries said. “That’s what Iowa people stand for — you keep working, keep working, keep working. I took it off the farm and put it in a football setting. You get off the surgery table and you get back to work. Whatever the outcome is, I was going to be OK with it because I know I worked the hardest and best that I could. You gather those characteristics along the way.”
The values DeVries learned as a youngster on the farm still serve him well as a 37-year-old on the farm. During the most recent harvest a rear tire came off his combine, then a drive shaft went out of his semi, then snowfall delayed the work. So, you keep plugging away.
“Not everything goes the way you plan, but you just persevere, you just keep working and that is somewhat what my career was,” DeVries said. “Things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted once I got in the NFL, but you just keep working.
“How do you have a 12-year NFL career? You show up every day, put your best foot forward and coaches can count on you. That means something in the NFL. Over time I gained respect of the coaches. Maybe it didn’t go exactly as planned, but you just keep working, show up, you’re dependable, and that all goes back to what my parents taught me on the farm.”
DeVries will be recognized on the field after the first quarter of the Iowa-Northwestern football game Oct. 26 in Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT).