It started with a hat. Now comes the helmet.
North Tama senior Brendon Boerm, a (nearly) lifelong Hawkeyes fan, has accepted an opportunity to join the University of Iowa football program as a preferred walk-on next season.
"I want to go to a successful program," Boerm said on Monday. "I feel like I'll fit in there because they do have high expectations and they're very dedicated that hard work will equal success. I have the same mentality that they had."
T-R FILE PHOTO
North Tama senior Brendon Boerm (6) runs away from Madrid’s Jeremy Johnson to score one of his four touchdowns during the Class A state championship game last November in Cedar Falls. Boerm will be a preferred walk-on next season for the University of Iowa football program.
"It was kind of a natural fit," he added.
Boerm is best known around the state for his work on the offensive side of the ball after he went over 100 yards receiving, rushing and passing while racking up six touchdowns in the Class A title game as the Redhawks beat top-ranked Madrid, but he'll focus solely on defense for the Hawkeyes at safety, a spot he also occupied for North Tama.
"I don't think he really had a chance to maximize or show what he could do defensively because we were so good on our first two levels of defense," said North Tama head coach Brent Thoren, whose defenses have been among the state's best the last two years. "He may have gotten a lot more tackles if we would have put him in a different role somewhere in the defense."
"He was constantly reminded by me that 'You're also the quarterback and we don't need you getting injured,'" he added. "He's a perfect fit for what they do defensively."
During the recruitment process, the Iowa coaching staff drew parallels between Boerm and outgoing safety Brett Greenwood, who joined the program as a walk-on before being granted a scholarship and being named a team captain as well as earning all-Big Ten accolades.
"They say the recruiting highlight tapes were very similar," said Boerm, who added he would likely redshirt this coming season.
"He came in there as a walk-on and just ended up being a stud and he's doing the NFL (draft) combine now," added the safety who made 79 stops and five interceptions during his senior campaign. "That's what they want me to be, and obviously he's a great player and I'd love to be as good as him.
"So it's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get there, but hopefully I can someday fill those shoes."
As one of just five preferred walk-ons, Boerm will be able to join the team during fall camp.
"That was a big thing for me," said Boerm, who will still run track and play baseball as he finishes his time in high school. "That really helps your shot of contributing."
The four-sport Redhawk star who has earned first-team all-state accolades in football, track and baseball was born a Cyclones fan with a father who attended veterinary school at Iowa State, but everything changed when Grandma handed him an Iowa hat in third grade.
"From that day on I've been a Hawk fan," Boerm said.
Even when recruiting a supporter, the Iowa staff had to deal with the fallout from 13 players being hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis and the tidal wave of negative publicity that came with it.
"If you had a question about it, they were very up front and honest and open about what they did and what was going on and how they handled it," said Thoren. "And I think how up front they were provided a level of confidence for both Brendon and his family to make that decision."
The Hawkeyes were latecomers to Boerm's recruiting process, not entering the fray until around Christmas. The 6-foot, 175-pounder had been entertaining some Division II interest as well as in-state options at the Division III level of Coe College and Wartburg.
"My recruiting process was full of ups and downs. Schools came in, schools came out," Boerm said.
The topsy-turvy ride may have stopped at the ideal place for Boerm, as he'll need to bulk up to handle the rigors of life in the Big Ten, and Iowa's strong reputation for growing prospects into players is known nationwide.
"You get that kid five years in that program focusing just strictly on (playing one sport)," said Thoren, "and with his athletic ability and his intelligence and his motivation, he is definitely a perfect fit for that program.
"They've got a great track record for developing talent."
And talent is one thing Boerm showed he had a heap of while leading North Tama to a 26-1 record and a state championship the past two years.
"It's a testament to the work that he's put in through the years of his career here," said Thoren. "It's very gratifying to see a young man be able to continue his football career at the highest level.
"Iowa is getting a heck of a player."