SPORTS

Area football players finding pathway to Hawkeyes, Cyclones via walk-on programs

Pre-college football players convene for 46th annual Iowa Shrine Bowl Saturday at UNI-Dome

Williamsburg's Ben Subbert (45) pulls in a pass during the second quarter of their Class 2A State Championship football game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Williamsburg's Ben Subbert (45) pulls in a pass during the second quarter of their Class 2A State Championship football game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR FALLS — Ben Subbert had opportunities to play college football on scholarship.

Schools like Illinois State, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and South Dakota all enthusiastically courted the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Williamsburg tight end.

Ultimately, the pull of his longtime favorite school convinced Subbert to walk-on at the University of Iowa.

“Iowa is where I always grew up liking, cheering for,” said Subbert, who will represent the South squad in the 46th annual Iowa Shrine Bowl on Saturday at 4 at the UNI-Dome. “My brother (Iowa deep snapper Jackson Subbert) is already there. It’s close to home. I’ve always been a Hawkeye fan. I don’t want to have that ‘what if’ in my head if I went somewhere else. … I just wanted to make sure I did what I wanted to do. That was Iowa for me.”

In its nearly half-century of existence, the all-star game featuring players who just completed high school has raised over $2.6 million for Shriners Hospitals For Children, a network of 22 non-profit medical facilities in the United States and Mexico.

“A lot of these guys are planning on going on (to college),” said West Delaware Coach Doug Winkowitsch, who will coach the North team. “This is a great opportunity to have their last event as a high school player. … They’re all really great kids. I think they all understand why we’re doing this. The Shriners do a great job of making it about the kids and the Shriners and the fundraising that goes into play.”

The South will be coached by Sam Anderson of Urbandale, who preceded Winkowitsch at West Delaware.

Washington (Iowa) graduate Ryan Reighard will play linebacker for the South after a productive prep career with the Demons that included two years at quarterback.

The 6-foot, 195-pound athlete elected to walk-on at Iowa State.

“It’s just the people there and the culture there and what (Iowa State Coach) Matt Campbell has done so far in the past couple of years,” Reighard said. “That completely sold me. The coaches there, the players, they are all for getting better. I’ve been up there for the summer and I can just tell that the kids there, they want to win and they want to succeed. It’s just really good being around those guys and starting to get into the flow of what they believe in and what they want to do.”

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Marion receiver Blair Brooks — a two-event track state champion that helped the Indians win two team track titles — will attend Iowa on a track scholarship and also walk-on to the football team. Not only does Brooks relish the opportunity to don his Marion uniform one last time for a good cause, the Iowa Shrine Bowl has long been a showcase for the other talents within his family.

“My dad (Mediacom MC22 and Hawkeye Radio Network broadcaster Rob Brooks) and grandpa (legendary radio/television broadcaster Bob Brooks, who died two years ago) announced this game for a really long time,” said Brooks, who received football scholarship offers from South Dakota and Western Illinois. “My grandpa announced it probably since it began and my dad still announces it. So this is just extra special for me. I know he has been waiting for it.”

Brooks will be joined on the North roster by another incoming Iowa walk-on freshman in 6-foot-2, 280-pound Jesup lineman Brian Sadler, who won a Class 1A wrestling state championship as a heavyweight in February.

Sadler has the versatility to compete on either side of the line with the Hawkeyes.

“D-1 has always been my dream,” Sadler said. “It was really the only way it was going to be possible. You’ve got to follow your dreams and try to make it happen.”

46TH ANNUAL IOWA SHRINE BOWL

At Cedar Falls

(UNI-Dome)

Saturday, 4 p.m.

ROSTER

(Gazette-area only)

NORTH

Head Coach — Doug Winkowitsch, West Delaware

Assistant Coach — Maurice Blue, Cedar Rapids Washington

Players

Kyler Bell, Cedar Rapids Jefferson

Tyler Kelley, West Delaware

McClain Burger, Cedar Rapids Xavier

Blair Brooks, Marion

Austin Svoboda, Don Bosco

Brennan Holthaus, South Winnesheik

Haven Henningsen, Cedar Rapids Washington

Austin Smith, Midland

Mitchell McCauley, Center Point-Urbana

Quentin Recker, Cascade

Brian Sadler, Jesup

Carter Brehm, Union Community

Zach Snyder, Independence

SOUTH

Assistant Coach — Gabe Bakker (Clear Creek Amana)

Players

Jaivonn Willis, Washington (Iowa)

Drew Adams, Mount Vernon

Ryan Reighard, Washington (Iowa)

Matt Brimeyer, Clear Creek Amana

Ben Subbert, Williamsburg

Jacob Bernhart, West Branch

Zach Jones, Iowa City High

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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