football Edit

Lukas Van Ness looking forward to being a Hawkeye

Defensive end Lukas Van Ness looking forward to starting his college career with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Defensive end Lukas Van Ness looking forward to starting his college career with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Incoming freshman defensive end Lukas Van Ness is making the most of his time at home with family during the pandemic as he gets ready to spend the next few years in Iowa City as a Hawkeye. We caught up with the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Van Ness this week to discuss his training at home, his upcoming freshman year, and much more.

Q: How are you dealing with the whole pandemic and what have your days kind of been like the past couple of months?

VAN NESS: I’m just trying to make the best of it. We have a house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, so I’ve been going up there a lot and it’s really helped save my sanity honestly. It’s super relaxing up there and I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my family. With school, we’re still doing e-learning right now, so Monday through Friday we have e-learning assignments. When I’m not doing that, I’ve been working out and trying to get some field work in whenever I can. Then, other than that, I’m just enjoying time with my family, walking my dog, fishing, and doing a lot of little things that you don’t tend to do normally.

Q: Getting ready to make the move to college this year, it has to be nice to spend a little extra time with your family.

VAN NESS: Yeah, exactly. It really has been. My mom has even had me go get groceries for the family a couple times, so I learn how to shop for groceries a little better and I’ve done a couple other things I probably wouldn’t normally do so it’s been good.

Q: With your training, what have you heard from Iowa and what have you been able to do there?

VAN NESS: We’ve received multiple books with different lifts and their workouts and then I have my own workouts too, so I’ve been incorporating and adding their lifts in just so it’s not brand new to me when I arrive. We’ve had to get a little creative, so my dad and I went and got some free weights and a bench and set up a little workout area. I’m just kind of making due with what I have and finding different ways to get the job done and get my work in for the day. Whether that’s going up to the field and putting my cleats on and doing some running or going down to my basement and getting a workout in.

Q: Coaching wise, who are you talking to mostly at Iowa and what has been their message?

VAN NESS: I’ve definitely talked to Coach Bell the most. As a defensive line group, we’ve been having a lot of Zoom meetings with each other. We’ve been picking up the frequency on that a lot recently. We do it like Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday now and before it used to be only Saturday. But we go on and talk about fundamentals and techniques and plays we’ve got to be learning so when we arrive there we’re not completely behind because we don’t know the exact day yet, but we’re all assuming it’s going to be pushed back.

Q: Is all of that still up in the air until they get official word basically?

VAN NESS: Yeah, exactly. We haven’t heard anything about an exact date or anything like that.

Q: What have you heard about the opportunity for you and other true freshmen coming in on the defensive line? Is there a chance for someone to play four games or even more this year?

VAN NESS: We haven’t really heard anything about redshirting or playing time, but obviously with A.J. Epenesa leaving there are some big gaps to fill on the defensive line. We’ve been told if you come in and work your tail off every day and do what you’re supposed to do eventually you will see the field.

Q: During your recruiting, was there any player the coaches compared you to like maybe Anthony Nelson or someone?

VAN NESS: That’s interesting. Not really to be honest. I remember with Coach Bell, he came out to my school one day and said, “You’re exactly what I’m looking for.” Because he wants guys that are tall and long and have good athletic ability. He’s been really emphasizing that in our class is looking for guys with speed and length and the ability to play all over the defensive line, not just stuck on playing defensive end or defensive tackle.

Q: It seems like they are less focused on the distinction of defensive end or defensive tackle now more than ever. Is that the sense you get is they want guys that can move all over?

VAN NESS: Yeah, 100%. Coach Bell has really emphasized that the defensive ends and the defensive tackles do the same drills and the same position work. He wants us to be able to move all over the defensive line and play wherever they need us because that’s the best way to be successful.

Q: Beyond the defensive line meetings, who are the guys you stay in touch with the most in your recruiting class?

VAN NESS: We have a huge group chat on Snapchat where we all talk to each other and hold each other accountable. Someone reaches out on there every so often just to make sure everyone is putting the work in. But I’ve been talking a lot to Andrew Wilson, who is going to be my roommate. We decided that a couple months ago, so we’re always talking on Snapchat. Also I’ve talked a lot with Deontae Craig and some of the other guys.

Q: Going back to your season last fall, you had quite a year obviously. What was the biggest difference for you to put up those kinds of numbers with sacks and tackles for loss?

VAN NESS: Honestly, I just think it was my team mainly. My teammates were always there supporting me and I come from a great community that has always had my back. They’ve always pushed me to be the best player possible. I remember during my recruiting I’d always have someone stop me and share how excited they were about my journey and let me know they were behind me. So that always pushed me to be the best version of myself and be productive on the field. I just really wanted to make a name for myself and leave my legacy at Barrington and leave with no regrets.

Q: After football, you moved on to hockey season. Have you always played hockey and how did that season go this year?

VAN NESS: Yeah, hockey was my first love. I’ve always played hockey my whole life and I’m actually relatively new to football. I just started playing football my freshman year. It was something I didn’t even really want to play, but my mom kind of pushed me into it and thank God she did because I love the game of football now. It’s crazy how that works.

But in hockey this year, we actually had the opportunity to go to the Final Four at State. That’s the furthest our program has ever made it, but then it got cancelled so we never got to finish it out. But I love the game of hockey and I really think it’s why I’ve been successful on the football field. It’s a quick moving game where everything happens right in front of your eyes and you have to be able to read and react right away. It’s a very up tempo game and I think that’s really transferred over and helped me in the game of football.

Q: Have you found out what jersey number you are wearing in college?

VAN NESS: Yeah. I’ll be wearing #91.

Q: Is that the number you wanted?

VAN NESS: To be honest with you, we did not get a choice. Coach Bell just came out with the list and said here you go. That’s okay though. I’ve got my number and I’m going to work with it.

Q: What’s your height and weight at coming in?

VAN NESS: I’m a little over 6-5, like 6-5 and ¼, and I’ve been at 245 pounds pretty consistently.

Q: When you look back at your decision last summer, it all seemed to come together really fast once Iowa offered. What made you so comfortable committing right away?

VAN NESS: I grew up a Hawkeye fan and I’ve always loved the University of Iowa. When I started the whole recruiting process, I always thought what would it be like to play at Iowa? I set that as a goal for myself from the beginning, so when I actually got an opportunity to come to Iowa I knew it was right for me. When I visited, it instantly felt like home with the culture, the team-first mentality, and the way the coaches support the players. It was something that I loved and I wanted to be there, so that’s why after the official visit I felt right away I needed to commit because that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Hawkeye.

Q: What are all the connections your family has to the state of Iowa and the University of Iowa again?

VAN NESS: My dad’s side of the family is all from Iowa and my mom grew up in Iowa as well, so we definitely have some family ties. My parents actually both went to Iowa State, so we have a little bit of a split family there because my older sister goes to Iowa.

Q: Is there already talk about a big family gathering for games this fall and on down the road?

VAN NESS: Oh yeah. We’ve already started talking about the whole family coming down and tailgating. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience for all of us.

A three-star prospect, Van Ness committed to Iowa on June 23, 2019, choosing the Hawkeyes over scholarship offers from Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Wyoming, Air Force, Navy, Memphis, Tulane, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, Lehigh, Holy Cross, Tennessee-Martin, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Southern Illinois, South Dakota, and Western Illinois.

As a senior, Van Ness finished the season with 49 tackles, 24 TFL, and seven sacks as he led Barrington to a 6-4 record.

See highlights from Van Ness' senior year in the video below.