Zach Twedt's journey to Iowa football built on farm life and life lessons from dad

'I'll be able to separate myself from the rest of the group, simply because of my work ethic'

Roland-Story's Zach Twedt leaps for the ball in a home game against Vinton-Shellsburg during his junior year. Twedt is o
Roland-Story’s Zach Twedt leaps for the ball in a home game against Vinton-Shellsburg during his junior year. Twedt is one of the six early enrollees for Iowa football. (Kevin Patterson)

Zach Twedt’s dad, Seth, always told him to “be humble and kick ass.”

Of course, when the Iowa football freshman was younger, he used a less explicit word for the latter part of the motto.

The early-enrolled, 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker excelled at most sports at Roland-Story. Twedt was the kid who tried long jump in eighth grade and leapt 19 feet, 6 inches. He was the pitcher and the catcher. The tight end and the linebacker.

And he did it all while growing up with the responsibility of working on the family farm in Story City, waking up at 4 a.m. to get chores done before his morning workouts.

It’s the values and responsibilities instilled in Twedt from a very young age by his father that he believes earned him a spot on the Hawkeyes’ roster.

“I may not be the biggest guy here,” Twedt said over the phone on Jan. 19. “I may not be the baddest guy here. I may not be the smartest guy here. But I for sure know that I’ll be able to separate myself from the rest of the group, simply because of my work ethic.”

College football wasn’t Twedt’s lifelong aspiration. In fact, Seth said he can count on one hand how many college or professional football games the two have watched together from start to finish.

But Zach’s passion is playing football, not watching it and Seth did everything he could to watch his son in between shifts as a fireman and life on the farm.

That’s the only team he made time to care about.


“I never wanted to be late or I never wanted to even go up to the snack stand because I was afraid I was going to miss something,” Seth said. “He came off the field at halftime. His grandmother would always wonder when Zach would get a break.”

JoNann, Zach’s grandmother, remembers everything. When Allen, Zach’s grandfather, said over the phone that Zach never got in trouble, she interjected, “Except that one time he threw eggs!”

As expected from a grandmother, JoNann’s favorite moment watching Zach on the field was not a menacing tackle on a breakaway run or a touchdown catch, but one of his more gentle moments. It was in junior high, when Zach’s team played South Hamilton.

“He went and he took this little kid around the waist and set him down,” JoNann said. “And I said to somebody, ‘What is he doing?’ They said, ‘Well, he’s a friend from South Hamilton, he probably didn’t want to throw him on the ground.’”

Neither grandparent held back on the pride they had for their grandson, who they believe is unlike most kids. Although, grandpa Allen is mildly disappointed Zach won’t pitch his senior season of baseball. But it wasn’t a surprise he enrolled early to Iowa’s football program.

Allen believes Zach is ambitious in ways he doesn’t think other kids are, making time to help with snow removal in the town, mowing neighbors’ yards or tending to the farm, attending auctions for livestock with Seth to learn the business side of agriculture.

But Zach enjoys the work and routine of farm life. He believes “God put us here to take care of the earth” and it helped him mature faster than others.

“Growing up with him, we never talked to him like a little kid,” Seth said. “He just got talked to like an adult. And so the other end of that was, at an early age, he was talking to everybody like an adult and had a big, firm handshake.”

The best part is Zach got to work with his favorite people, especially his dad.


“I’m very close with my dad, he’s the best person in my life,” Zach said. “We’re inseparable.”

Seth taught Zach it’s his responsibility to look out for others, something that showed through his senior football season when a torn labrum in his shoulder put him on the sidelines.

“He’s a strong leader and can move other people around,” Roland-Story head football coach Matt Finn said. “He’s not just doing things in his own little tube and hoping it works out for everybody else. After he was injured, he brought a great attitude to practice every day and became another part of our coaching staff.”

Responsibility is something that comes naturally growing up the way Zach has. He knew how to drive by age 6, even taking his babysitters for rides on the tractor while his dad worked at the fire station, but making sure to power wash them in time for when Seth returned for his 48 hours off.

It’s the little things that Seth will miss about his son going to college. Zach’s not just the addition to Iowa’s strongest recruiting class in years, but a missing piece of Story City.

“I’ll miss him, he’s my buddy,” Seth said. “It was always kind of Zach and I. He went everywhere with me.”

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