Former Iowa State Cyclone football player Ryan Sloth is living the dream as a children’s author. He grew up near Belmond, in north central Iowa, and has always been a Cyclone fan. Sloth started as a freshman walk-on at Iowa State in the late 1990s. By his senior year, he was a starting defensive back and was part of the team that led Iowa State to its first bowl game win.
Sloth got a degree in sports management and received a master’s in higher education. After college, he spent some time playing and coaching arena football, including playing and coaching for the Iowa Barnstormers.
About 10 years ago, while reading a football story to his son, Tucker, he realized the author knew nothing about football and the story was so awful that he threw it away. Sloth said it reminded him of a story he had written in high school as part of an English assignment with the character he created called, Sammy Sloth, a play on his last name. He called his mom and, luckily, she still had the story he had written and illustrated. After making a few revisions and adding some new characters, including his family, he sent it out to a few publishers. About a month later, a publisher called and Sammy Sloth was a reality.
Sammy Sloth loves sports, but because he is so slow, he has a hard time playing basketball and baseball. Sammy keeps searching and doesn’t give up finding the right sport for him. Eventually he finds golf, and when he is told to take a “nice slow back swing” he knows it’s the sport for him.
“Sammy makes the team and finds out golf is his sport,” Sloth said.
Sloth creates each Sammy book to teach a lesson such as never giving up, believing in yourself, or having patience. He even co-authored one of his books with his son and one with his daughter.
His books include “Sammy Sloth’s Big Golf Tourney,” “Sammy Sloth’s Big Fish” and “Hank the Bully.”
Since Sloth’s time was flexible during the offseason, he began taking his books into the classrooms. Reading has always been important to him, he said.
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“Growing up on a farm in the ’80s, we had story time every night because there was nothing else to do. Mom would read a few chapters a night from ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ books,” Sloth said. “As I got older, I wasn’t a huge reader, and then mom introduced me to the Matt Christopher series of sports-themed books. I had no idea they made books about football and that got me interested in reading again.”
He said it is important for him to share the importance of literacy, showing kids that reading can be fun, and there is a book out there for everyone.
Sloth has plenty of other exciting things on the horizon. With his Arena Football League connections, he has appeared in several movies with football-related scenes, including “We are Marshall,” “Leatherheads,” as well as “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Sloth’s ninth book is nearly published, and he is busy reading chapter books with his son for research on writing his own chapter book for young readers. He also is writing a novel based on the real story of one of his fellow arena football teammates who died on the field. He wants to tell the story of his team and coaches and how they overcame the tragedy. “It’s a ‘We are Marshall’ type of story that I hope will eventually be made into a movie,” he said.
In the meantime, Sloth tours elementary classrooms across the state. sharing the message that literacy is important, finding books that you like make reading fun, and that reading can take you anywhere.
Sloth will read from his books Monday at College Community Prairie Hill Elementary School and Tuesday at College Community Prairie Heights Elementary School. He also will visit Williamsburg Elementary School on Friday.
For more on Sloth, visit www.CoachSloth.com.