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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa —It felt natural for Alyssa Klostermann to be passionate about sports because of her father’s previous occupation.
But it took her a while to settle into the sport she excels at for the University of Iowa.
Klostermann’s father, Bruce, played five seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams. His success on the gridiron rubbed off on his three children Erin, Zach, and Alyssa.
“When we were younger, we would slap on pads and a helmet and play backyard football,” Alyssa said. “My dad would draw routes on his hand and we would go do it. It was how we got our tough side.”
Klostermann is wrapping up her four-year volleyball career at the University of Iowa where she has been a mainstay in the lineup as a defensive specialist/setter. At Dubuque (Iowa) Wahlert High School, she was named all-state three times.
When Klostermann was in third grade, presumably when backyard football was in its offseason, she picked up a newspaper and saw an advertisement for boys’ youth soccer tryouts.
“I remember walking up to the field and clinging onto (dad’s) leg saying, ‘Don’t make me go,'” Alyssa said. “He shook me off his leg and I scurried out there and I tried out for an all-boys soccer team and I made it.”
Alyssa participated at that level from third grade until eighth grade.
“That was fun and I give all the credit to (dad) because I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for him, and it ultimately it made me tougher being able to hang with the boys,” Alyssa said.
Bouncing from sport to sport is another feature Bruce passed to his youngest daughter.
A native of baseball-crazed Dyersville, Iowa, the elder Klostermann participated in football, basketball, and baseball.
“Growing up in those days, you did them all,” said Bruce. “It was one season to the next.”
Aside from soccer, Alyssa also lettered in high school basketball and track. She was a 400-meter runner for the Golden Eagles’ Class 3A state championship track and field teams.
When Alyssa was searching for the right program to continue her volleyball career, dad stepped in again with guidance. Bruce attended two colleges before settling on South Dakota State, so he knew something about finding a good fit.
“You go to a school that if that sport doesn’t work, you still want to be there, that’s my No. 1 thing,” Bruce said. “Choose a place that academically they have what you want, because ultimately you have to get a job and go on with life.”
Klostermann and senior Lauren Brobst are the only two Hawkeyes who were in the program before current head coach Bond Shymansky arrived in 2014. Iowa won 11 matches in 2013, 14 in 2014, 12 in 2015, and is currently 19-12 with one match remaining in the regular season. Klostermann calls it a Cinderella story.
“There have been a lot of highs and a lot of lows including a coaching change and coming and going of teammates,” Alyssa said. “I have been blessed to call this my journey. Before, people were looking (at the Iowa program) from the inside out. Now people are looking at it from the outside in. We’re turning heads in the Big Ten and that is cool. No matter where this program goes in the future, it’s going to be cool to say I was part of the foundation.”
Bruce and his wife, Nancy, attend as many Hawkeye matches as possible. Their oldest daughter, Erin, played volleyball at St. Louis University before attending graduate school at the University of Iowa. Bruce already knew the landscape in Iowa City. He and high school teammate Mike Haight were members of the Hawkeye football program, but Bruce left early in his career to attend Waldorf College and then South Dakota State University, where he was named to the Jackrabbits’ all-time team.
A linebacker, Bruce was selected in the eighth round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. From 1986-89, with Klostermann on the roster, the Broncos went to three Super Bowls, losing to the New York Giants in 1987 (39-20), the Washington Redskins in 1988 (42-10), and the San Francisco 49ers in 1990 (55-10).
“Life isn’t always fair,” Bruce said. “We went to three Super Bowls when I was with the Broncos and we lost all three. At that moment it was incredible — being such a high and a few hours later being on the lowest of lows. You look back and it’s a mere speck of time. It is nothing to do with life, it is a learning experience. How big a moment is it for you? It’s a speck of time, so put your head down and keep going. It passes and there will be other moments.”
That advice resonates with Alyssa. In fact, there were several occasions during her sports career where she wanted time by herself to pout after a tough loss. Bruce would never stand for it.
“I’m a competitive person and I hate losing,” Alyssa said. “Growing up in club (volleyball) when we would lose, I would pity party and be so mad at myself. My dad knew how to cheer me up. He would whisper in my ear, ‘Trust me, Alyssa, I have lost a Super Bowl.’ I would be, gosh darn it dad, come on, can’t I be sad for once? He has been there and that is what is so cool. He taught me there is more to life, you have to pick up your head and keep moving forward.”
“Life isn’t always fair. We went to three Super Bowls when I was with the Broncos and we lost all three. At that moment it was incredible — being such a high and a few hours later being on the lowest of lows. You look back and it’s a mere speck of time. It is nothing to do with life, it is a learning experience. How big a moment is it for you? It’s a speck of time, so put your head down and keep going. It passes and there will be other moments.” — Bruce Klostermann
Having a dad who played in multiple Super Bowls is something to brag about. Alyssa said that even though everyone was aware of her father’s football exploits, she would occasionally take a Super Bowl ring to school to impress classmates. There was no concern that anyone would be foolish enough to mess with a former professional football player’s property.
“They are immediately intimated by him, thinking he is a linebacker and he’s huge,” Alyssa said. “But I tell them he’s a Teddy Bear. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone.”
Even though Bruce has played on some of the biggest stages in sports, he gets more nervous sitting in Carver-Hawkeye Arena watching his daughter and the Hawkeyes. During a thrilling 3-1 victory over Northwestern on Oct. 28, Alyssa collected 10 digs and served the final two points of a Game 4 clincher.
“It’s harder sitting there watching, absolutely. It is very tough,” Bruce said. “It is hard as a parent to sit, I don’t care what you’re watching. That is much, much harder for me.”
Alyssa is majoring in journalism and sports studies. Entering her senior season she was already a two-time team captain and two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. Hard work runs in the family.
“The biggest thing my dad taught me, especially going into college volleyball, is you’re not going to be the biggest, you’re not going to be the strongest, but you are going to be the hardest-working person in the gym,” Alyssa said. “That is evident in my journey and especially his journey. That equals success. Working your hardest, giving it everything you have, having complete and total confidence in yourself and having fun at the same time will put you on top no matter your size, weight, or ability. Being able to work the hardest is a huge characteristic that will bring you out on top.”
Alyssa’s volleyball career concludes at home Saturday. Her father will be in the stands during the match, but more importantly, when Alyssa’s playing days are over, he will continue to be an influence.
“I have my dad, my hero, my best friend, and my role model all in one person,” Alyssa said. “It is fun to celebrate the good times with him, but there have been bad times and my dad has always been there for me.”