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Van Sloten keeps trying to 'break the rock'

[ 0 ] September 26, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Brett Van Sloten loved to spend time at his grandparents’ farm as a kid. It wasn’t all play.

“My grandfather put me to work, picking up rock,” Van Sloten said. “When I got a little older, he let me drive the tractor.”

As a football player at Iowa, Van Sloten’s success is defined by another stone. This one, located in the Hawkeyes’ weight room, includes this inscription: “Break the Rock.” The brainchild of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, the rock represents the theme that with hard work, you can chip away at any obstacle in your path.

In Van Sloten’s case, that obstacle might be a defensive end or tackle. Maybe a linebacker.A commitment to the weightroom has shaped Van Sloten, from a 260-pound tight end- defensive end at Decorah High School to the Hawkeyes’ 300-pound starting right offensive tackle.

“You have to keep chipping away at it,” said Van Sloten, a fifth-year senior. “We do it on a daily basis.”

Van Sloten will be doing it Saturday, going nose-to-nose with Minnesota’s defensive line in the 2:30 p.m. Big Ten opener at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

From carrying rock out of grandfather Delmar Benning’s farm field outside Wellsburg to pumping iron in Doyle’s weight room at Iowa, Van Sloten has made himself into a Big Ten football player… and made his father proud.

Doug Van Sloten played football at Iowa State in the 1980s, a three-year letterman who saw time at linebacker, center and guard for coaches Donnie Duncan and Jim Criner.

“I got a great education, and I was fortunate to have that opportunity,” said Doug, who is now general manager of the Winneshiek Cooperative Association in Decorah.

When it came time for his son to pick a college, Doug never gave a Cy-Hawk cringe when Brett selected the Hawkeyes.

“We feel fortunate that Iowa offered him a scholarship,” Doug said. “It was the right place for him. We have a lot of respect for the coaching staff and the program overall.”

Doug’s experience was invaluable when Brett was deciding which direction his career would go.

“We talked about what level his goal was to play at, and what he could expect at those different levels,” Doug said. “He knew before he accepted the scholarship that he would have to be patient, and wait for his opportunity, which we’re really happy he got.”

Iowa was Van Sloten’s only Division I offer. And it didn’t come until David Barrent from West Des Moines Valley decommitted from Iowa and went to Michigan State instead.

Van Sloten accepted, and started to chip away.

“It’s been a fun ride,” said Van Sloten, a two-year starter. “And it’s gone pretty fast. This is the last go-around. I’m trying to leave it all out there.”

Brett’s dad and his mom, Kendra, will be at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday to see their son play. They’ve been to every game, home and away, since he started dressing as a redshirt freshman.

“It’s been something that we’ll always cherish,” Doug said. “We have a lot of fond memories.”

Kendra is an area manager for Pioneer Seed. With his family rooted in agriculture, Brett might move in that direction some day. He’ll graduate in December with a degree in business management.

“I’m wide open,” Van Sloten said. “Both my parents are in agriculture, and if I ever get a chance at something like that I’d love to do it.”

Professional football is another possibility. And he’d like to play one more college game after graduation. A bowl game.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” Brett said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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