New team, same bond
Grundy Center football standouts Flater, Hook reunite at Northern Iowa
CEDAR FALLS — For a couple magical seasons, Bryce Flater and Jordan Hook struck fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.
Flater had back-to-back 2,000-plus rushing seasons while toting the rock for Grundy Center, and for both of those years Hook was locking things down on the offensive line.
Now the two are back together again just 27 miles north of Grundy Center, where the duo now wear University of Northern Iowa uniforms.
Flater, who joined the Panthers last season and enters his first year as a redshirt freshman, said having one of his former teammates and lifelong friends with him on campus is a blessing.
“I supported that all the way, having someone from back home is all anyone can really ask for,” Flater said. “Yeah he’s a freshman and I’ve experienced it for the first year and now I get to show him the ropes I guess.”
Hook, who is in his first year making the jump from the high school to the college level, said joining back up with his former running back was a huge perk in committing to UNI.
“Bryce and I have been friends ever since we were little, so he’s been honest with me about everything and it’s been really nice to have him as a resource to use in this whole process,” Hook said.
While the two are together again in the same locker room, it is now in a much different context. Flater has made the switch from running back to inside linebacker, while Hook is still working on the offensive line.
After redshirting his first year with the team, Flater said he is in a much better position now to possibly contribute on the field.
“Last year coming in as a freshman obviously it’s a lot on your plate and being a year into it, being experienced is just 10 times better,” he said. “You get to see everything and overall you’re a lot more comfortable out there.”
Hook might not be changing positions, but he is going from manhandling players from fellow Class A schools to now facing elite talent.
“I am still trying to get used to it, the biggest thing I think is just the speed of the game,” Hook said. “It’s crazy how fast everything is and how strong guys are because going from a small school and playing a bunch of other smaller schools, there usually wasn’t anyone I was going against that was the same size as me. I’m one of the smaller linemen here, so that’s a big transition.”
Though UNI has yet to play a game this season, Flater said Hook is getting plenty of experience of what game speed will look like just because of the way the Panthers practice.
“The competition is very high here at Northern Iowa, you come to any practice here and we are practicing the hardest out of a lot of teams,” Flater said. “It’s very competitive in here and everyone is trying to win their spot.”
Flater himself is trying to win a spot on the defense, but he currently sits third on the depth chart at middle linebacker behind West Marshall graduate and Northern Iowa senior Duncan Ferch.
Ferch said he embraces Flater’s work ethic, despite both playing the same position, and he is doing his best to bring the younger NICL West Division athlete along.
“He’s young right now so obviously the defense can be kind of confusing,” Ferch said of Flater. “He likes to hit people so that will be good, that’s probably the hardest part about it. He’s physical so one he gets it down he’ll be pretty good.”
Hook is also having a bit of a position switch, going from playing tackle on the outside for most of his Spartan career to now playing on the inside as a guard.
“It’s tough, there is a lot that goes into it,” Hook said. “You’re just not exposed to all that in high school, but it is nice to focus on one sport. I don’t have to focus on defense, just offense, it’s nice. I am catching on, but there’s still a lot to learn.”
Whenever Hook needs a bit of a mental break or is feeling a little homesick, he doesn’t just have to rely on the familiarity of Flater on the team, as home is just a short car ride away.
“For my parents, they can come and watch games, and my grandparents and the rest of my family,” Hook said. “We make trips to Cedar Falls all the time, it’s like 25 minutes away. If I needed to I could run home for something or just run home and see my parents.”
Hook is fighting with 18 other linemen for one of five starting spots, and he knows with his lack of experience that he likely won’t be a starter fresh out of the gates. Due to the new rule allowing redshirted players to play in as many as four games, however, Hook said there is a chance he sees some action in 2018.
“There’s a lot of competition ahead of me, so I am really hoping to be able to redshirt and hopefully get into some games this year with that new redshirt rule,” Hook said. “That’s what I’m shooting for, I’m hoping to get out there a little bit and get some experience.”
Given both of their roles on their respective sides of the ball, there will likely come times in practice that the two will have to face off in one drill or another. When that time comes, both said they won’t back down from the challenge.
“We haven’t seen that yet, but probably down the road for sure,” Flater said with a sly smile. “I’ll be hitting him in the mouth for sure.”
“I’m ready, Bryce and I really never went up against each other in practice because we’ve always been on the same side of the ball,” Hook said with an excited grin. “So yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”