116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes all you need to do is listen to the coach.
No one knows Ben Kueter better as a football player than Mitch Moore, his head coach at Iowa City High. Moore has been part of a major college staff at Iowa State, so the evaluations and observations about his star junior should be especially trusted.
“He was the best player in every game,” Moore said.
That’s saying something.
City High made it to the Class 5A state semifinals, losing to Southeast Polk. SEP had a Division I college quarterback in Jaxon Dailey, a safety who has narrowed his college choices to four big-time programs (Xavier Nwankpa) and an offensive tackle who virtually everyone has offered (Kadyn Proctor).
“Even up to our last game, you knew Xavier Nwankpa, the game was just slow for him, and he moved at a different pace,” Moore said. “But even Ben in that game was just at that level. If that was a five-star safety and the other guy a five-star tackle (Proctor), then Ben is a four-star linebacker right now. That’s kind of what everybody thought.
“Every game he lived up to the standard and the performance that he could do. It was just fun to watch. He loves physicality, he can run, and he’s got great length. All those things are just a dangerous thing to have for a football player.”
And qualities that have made Kueter, a junior, The Gazette’s area Player of the Year. It’s an honor that’s rarely bestowed upon an underclassman, but that’s just how impressive this kid played on both sides of the football in a renaissance season for the Little Hawks.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder’s impact on offense was mostly as a wide receiver/tight end type. He caught 24 passes, nine of them going for touchdowns.
The most memorable was a 20-yarder off a flea-flicker in the final minute to beat West Des Moines Dowling. Kueter was lined up wide to the right and casually and covertly made his way downfield while all of the reverse handoffs and pitch back to quarterback Drew Larson was going on.
“Been running it all week in practice,” Kueter said. “They obviously weren’t expecting it. We just had to run it the right way. We had to take it slow, make it look like a jet (sweep), so they wouldn’t come after me. I kind of coasted into the end zone. Catch the ball.”
As much as he impacted some games offensively, it was his work at linebacker that was so, so impressive.
Kueter had 101 tackles for City High, 55 of them solo. That included 11 1/2 sacks and a stunning 41 tackles for loss, all 5A highs.
Size, quickness, speed, a high motor, a desire to learn and a willingness to work at his game made him someone you couldn’t block. There was an indelible moment in the second half of City High’s 5A semifinal loss to Southeast Polk in which Kueter blitzed from his linebacker spot and absolutely obliterated Dailey just after he’d thrown a pass with a clean shoulder-to-chest hit.
City High was well behind at the time. That showed you Kueter’s non-stop competitiveness.
“It almost looked like a Big Ten player at that time,” said Moore, The Gazette’s Coach of the Year.
The coach thought one Big Ten player, specifically. Moore sees a lot of Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell in Kueter.
Like Kueter, Campbell was a multi-sport athlete in high school at Cedar Falls who made an immediate impact once he got to college.
“When it’s all said and done, I think Ben could play anywhere, at any school in the country,” Moore said. “Look at the linebackers that Iowa has developed the last 15 years. It’s just a great spot. And I think he could be one of those guys, he can develop into that. You hate comparisons, but that’s what we do. Jack Campbell, he’s kind of that mold. They’re the same look, they’ve got the same kind of drive, head down. That is kind of how you picture (Kueter).
“You look at Ben, and, boy, the way he can run and the four-sport athlete that he is, you think ‘Boy, he could be Jack Campbell.’”
Kueter announced in September he would be playing football and wrestling with the Hawkeyes in two years. Wrestling season just began at City High for the undefeated two-time state champ and accomplished AAU competitor.
You wonder just how the kid is going to be able to pull off this unheard-of double in college, but those who know him, know not to doubt him.
“The visit (to Iowa) was everything I thought it would be,” he said. “I’ve done both sports my whole life. If I can do them both at a high level, I’m going to do it. If it’s too much, I’ll re-evaluate.”
“We’re talking about him for a reason,” Moore said. “He’s unique, so you can’t treat him like every other kid. You just really provide him with perspective and honor opinions at times and say ‘Hey, Ben, there’s a reason you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ve made a lot of good choices on your own. So (continue to) do those. Do what you want to do.’”
Kueter also runs track and plays baseball at City High. His parents were athletes, so that’s from where his love of them comes.
Moore said he felt Kueter’s love of football grew this fall.
“Sunday he wants to call you. Saturday he wants to know how to do this,” Moore said. “You’ll get three text messages a day from him. Just stuff like ‘Hey, Coach, how can I do this?’ He drives to Des Moines and meets with a nutritionist. He’ll drive to a big-name wrestling (event) because there’s a guy that’s coming up who is top ranked in the country. He just always makes an effort where if there is an opportunity to get better, he’s going to try and do it.
“I’m looking right now at a Tim Dwight poster, a plaque. You hate doing that comparison (because) Tim Dwight was special, special, and he proved it for years. But Ben Kueter has that (same) feeling of wow, just wow, you know? It’s been fun, so fun.”
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