Sept. 24, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When freshman Aaron Mends was recruited to play football at the University of Iowa, Hawkeye assistant coach LeVar Woods assigned homework.
Mends was blown away by what he learned.
“I started looking at Iowa and coach Woods was the only person recruiting me to ask me to do research about the school before I made my decision,” Mends said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com. “I read about Nile Kinnick and I read about their health school. I read about coach (Kirk) Ferentz’s long tenure here and the stability of the program. I liked the morals of this program and the traditions appealed to me as a player.”
Two things stuck out to Mends about the Iowa football program. First, he was amazed that Kinnick served in the United States Navy in World War II rather than play in the NFL. Second, he was impressed by the consistency of the Hawkeye program that has had two head coaches — Hayden Fry and Ferentz — since the 1979 season. That equals two coaches in 36 seasons.
“Some of the other schools I was looking at, their whole coaching staff was gone before I could even talk to them,” Mends said. “I liked the stability of this program.”
Mends is a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker from Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He came to Iowa as a linebacker, briefly switched to fullback, and has now returned to defense.
“I felt wherever I could help out the team would be a great opportunity,” Mends said. “I tried (fullback) a little bit, that didn’t pan out, so I ended up going back to linebacker. I have been working hard trying to get on the field somewhere, anywhere they might need me.”
He was a logical choice to play either linebacker or fullback. In high school, Mends rushed for 1,790 yards and recorded 210 tackles.
“I’m one of the newer guys and I’m not as big as some of the other guys, so my speed helps me a lot,” Mends said. “I have an idea of what the running backs are going to do and knowing what kind of moves they are going to make helps me a lot on defense.”
Mends is in his fifth week as student and he is already a walking, talking pitch man for the UI admission’s department.
“The University of Iowa is amazing, I don’t know what’s not to like,” Mends said. “The town is amazing, I have made a lot of new friends since I have been here, it’s not far from home, I like the size of classes and the pace. Dorm life is crazy, there is always something fun going on.”
The Hawkeyes (3-1 overall) open Big Ten Conference play at Purdue (2-2) on Sept. 27. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:01 a.m. (CT) from Ross-Ade Stadium.