Nov. 25, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Engineers run in the Vejvoda family. So do football players.
University of Iowa freshman tight end Nate Vejvoda is pursuing a major in engineering. His father, Greg, is an engineer in Homer Glyn, Illinois. An older brother, Mitch, is majoring in mechanical engineering at South Dakota State. Nate and Mitch play tight end.
“That’s what interests me in becoming an engineer,” Nate said. “It’s a lot of work, but I want to get my degree in it.”
Along with learning in the classroom, Vejvoda has been working on adding weight and becoming stronger in order to make an impact as a Division I football player.
“I’m the skinniest tight end so I need to put on weight,” Vejvoda said, who is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. “I am also working on the fundamentals of blocking. In high school I didn’t do it that much, so I’m learning how to do that. The pace of the game is much faster in college than it is in high school, so I’m adjusting to that, too.”
Vejvoda was a four-year letterwinner at tight end, wide receiver, and long snapper at Providence Catholic High School. During Vejvoda’s senior season of 2014, the Celtics won the Class 7A Illinois state championship. He caught 44 passes for 638 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior to go with 24 receptions for 352 yards and three scores as a junior.
“Nate is doing well, we liked him in high school and thought he had a chance to develop and grow,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He has put on a lot of weight and gotten stronger. He has good hands and is a good deep snapper. He is building a good foundation and he has a good future.”
“I’m the skinniest tight end so I need to put on weight. I am also working on the fundamentals of blocking. In high school I didn’t do it that much, so I’m learning how to do that. The pace of the game is much faster in college than it is in high school, so I’m adjusting to that, too.”
UI freshman tight end
Vejvoda is part of a UI tight end group that includes seniors Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble, and junior George Kittle. Duzey led the Hawkeye tight ends in receptions last season (36 catches, 392 yards, three touchdowns). After 11 games this season, Krieger-Coble is second on the team with 27 catches for 338 yards and a touchdown, while Kittle is fifth with 16 catches for 229 yards, and five touchdowns.
“They are a great group of guys,” Vejvoda said. “Earlier in the year Duzey would teach us everything and Hank (Krieger-Coble) is also there. George Kittle took me under his wing during camp. Everything is going well, it is a great group of guys to be around.”
Vejvoda enjoys learning from first-year tight ends coach LeVar Woods, who spent three previous seasons working with linebackers.
“It is going well,” Vejvoda said. “He is learning along with us and I’m learning a lot from him.”
This is the first season the Vejvoda brothers have played collegiately at the same time and they share a victory over a common opponent. On Sept. 5, the Hawkeyes defeated Illinois State, 31-14. On Nov. 7, South Dakota State defeated the Redbirds, 25-20.
Nate will redshirt this season, but he is enjoying the historic 11-game winning streak and Big Ten Conference West Division championship.
“It is a blessing,” Vejvoda said. “Coming into this, I obviously wanted to win every game possible, but it is an overwhelming experience when it actually happens. It is truly a blessing to be part of it.”
Because of graduation losses to Duzey and Krieger-Coble, it is essential that young tight ends like Vejvoda prepare well for the 2016 season.
“We have young guys who are doing good things,” Ferentz said. “We are losing two really good seniors, and George will be a senior next year. It will be important for Nate to have a good offseason looking ahead to next year.”
No. 3 Iowa (11-0 overall, 7-0 Big Ten Conference) seeks its sixth consecutive road victory Friday against Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) in Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:36 p.m. (CT); the game will be televised by ABC.