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In memoriam: Gazette Athletes of the Year Ryan Driscoll and Monica Huelman Zaruba
The winner of the 1992 Male Athlete of the Year and the 1996 Female Athlete of the Year passed away about a year apart
CEDAR RAPIDS — He was one of the best all-around athletes the Metro has ever produced.
Linn-Mar’s Ryan Driscoll was an all-state baseball player, a three-year starter in basketball. He was an all-Mississippi Valley Conference selection as a senior.
Football was his best deal, though. He led the Lions to a state championship in 1990, was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country the following year as a senior.
Driscoll ended up at the University of Iowa, where he played in 25 games.
“Ryan Driscoll, besides the skill and abilities that he had that were beyond any player I'd ever coached, had the ability to raise the level of play of kids around him,” said Greg Purnell, his football coach at Linn-Mar. “Kids loved him, his fellow teammates loved him. He had the neatest, charismatic smile that everyone rallied to. I just can't say enough about him. He did so much for so many.”
Driscoll died suddenly in December 2018 of a massive heart attack at his home in the suburbs of Rockford, Ill. He was just 44.
”As a person is how I want Ryan to be remembered,” said Phil Katz, his baseball coach at Linn-Mar. “God, they don't get any better. Just humble, caring, loving, generally concerned about you.
“As an athlete, he was selfless, too. He had all the god-given skills, but the thing Ryan had was the ability to lead and the ability to relate to his teammates. His teammates would run through a wall for him. Ryan had ‘It,' that's what I would say. He had ‘It.'”
Driscoll was The Gazette’s 1992 Male Athlete of the Year. He and 1996 Female Athlete of the Year Monica Huelman Zaruba left so many with so many memories.
And just left too soon.
Huelman Zaruba died suddenly in late 2017 at age 40. The former Vinton-Shellsburg prep was the very first recruit at Iowa State for women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly.
“She was the first kid that we recruited, and she took maybe the biggest gamble of any kid we ever recruited,” Fennelly said, when Huelman Zaruba was inducted into ISU’s hall of fame in 2012. “She trusted us at a time when she didn’t have to. There wasn’t anything here to trust.”
Huelman Zaruba led Vinton-Shellsburg to the girls’ state basketball tournament three times, including a 1995 state championship. The 6-foot-3 center averaged 24 points per game as a senior.
She also participated in volleyball and track and field at the school.
“The sadness we feel is numbing, and it hopefully will encourage us to all celebrate life and family just as Mo did,” Fennelly said in a statement following the announced of Huelman Zaruba’s death.
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