CEDAR FALLS — Like any college student-athlete, Northern Iowa junior defensive end Brawntae Wells hopes to extend his football career to the next level.
If Wells’ professional football hopes happen to not come to fruition, the Des Moines native has set himself up for an impactful career helping troubled youth become productive adults.
Along with his busy schedule as a full-time student and football player, Wells makes time to volunteer for multiple organizations, including Juvenile Court Services in Waterloo, the Central Iowa Juvenile Detention Center and tomorrow’s leaders Youth After School Program.
“I guess it’s just kind of always been in me, growing up in an urban neighborhood (and) experiencing the rough times,” Wells said. “And just seeing what certain environments (and) what you go through when you live in certain environments, then what you can take from that and what you can overcome.”
Wells pointed out who helped push him toward his career path.
“The way my mother raised me and my older brothers — values were very important of being a selfless individual,” Wells said. “There’s always a bigger purpose than yourself and that for me is helping out other individuals.”
After years of volunteer work that his academic advisors at UNI also pushed him toward, Wells earned recognition for his philanthropy. The Panthers defensive end was named the Institute of Sport and Social Justice’s October Playmaker of the Month.
“It was such an honor seeing that I have an institute and plenty of people around that want to applaud me for things that I do,” Wells said. “Honestly, everything that I do, I don’t do it for recognition, I do it because I truly care. But, I’m also very appreciative that I have people behind who truly care about some of the things I care about.”
On the football field, Wells is coming off his best game as a Panther.
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On the third play of last Saturday’s first-round playoff win over San Diego, he intercepted Toreros QB Reid Sinnett and rumbled 34 yards for the first TD of the game.
“The interception was definitely fun because I got to drop into coverage,” Wells said. “Dropping to the flat and catching it, your eyes get really big once the ball gets to you, then as soon as I caught it my whole mindset was score. It was really fun. I really enjoyed that moment.”
The former West Des Moines Dowling standout’s pick-6 earned him his second nomination for the Piesman Trophy — annually awarded by SB Nation to a “lineman that does an un-lineman like thing at any level of college football” — in as many seasons.
Wells added a tackle for loss and pass deflection that both came in important moments of last week’s 17-3 win. It also was his first career start as defensive end Seth Thomas left the Panthers’ regular-season finale with an injury and has yet to return.
With their season on the line in the second round Saturday at South Dakota State (8-4), Wells put it simply on what it’s going to take for the Panthers (9-4) to keep their season alive.
“I think it comes down to execution and making sure we keep our mental preparation (together), as well as our physical (preparation),” Wells said.