116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS - Patience is paying off for Northern Iowa linebacker Riley Van Wyhe.
As more and more college athletes enter the transfer portal, looking for more playing time, Van Wyhe stayed true to his UNI commitment and the fourth-year junior has burst onto the scene after entering the starting lineup three weeks ago.
Ahead of this spring season, the Rock Rapids native was a key special teams player and rotational linebacker, but found himself in the starting lineup in week 2 after Bryce Flater suffered a season-ending injury.
'I was really excited that week we were practicing and getting ready and then it finally kind of hit me on that Friday night when I finally knew for sure I would be (starting),” Van Wyhe said. 'My family was obviously really excited. All that hard work was definitely worth it. I'm the type of person that when I start something, I'm going to finish it.”
While the circumstances of finding his way into the starting lineup are unfortunate, especially considering Flater is Van Wyhe's roommate, he's lived up to the praise he got before the season from linebackers coach D.J. Vokolek. In three starts, Van Wyhe has registered nine, 10 and 14 tackles.
'It helps being an older guy. I've had a ton of practice reps the past four years,” Van Wyhe said. 'I would say the games weren't too much different for me than practice. It'd just be the tackling and a little bit of the speed - because we don't go live too much in practice - so that's kind of what I was most nervous for.”
With three games of starting experience now under his belt, Van Wyhe has proven why his teammates and coaches trusted him to step in for Flater, an all-conference honoree.
UNI head coach Mark Farley says that Van Wyhe practicing as if he were a starter has been the key to his success.
'To Riley's credit his determination, his work ethic and his perseverance is probably the biggest attribute he has because he's really persevered through waiting for his turn,” Farley said. 'But when his turn showed up, as we can all learn from him, he was ready and prepared for it and now he's been very productive in it.”
Despite the high level of production individually, Van Wyhe and the Panthers are coming off a heart-wrenching 17-16 loss at Southern Illinois last week.
With Missouri State headed to the UNI-Dome this Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff (ESPN+), he says the defense is honed in on what's necessary to continue to improve.
'We've got to finish plays,” Van Wyhe said. 'Everyone knows we've got our backs against the wall, so we just put our head down and got to work during the week and we'll get after it on Saturday.”