football Edit

Yale Van Dyne Jr. walking on

Yale Van Dyne Jr., left, and younger brother, Harry, during their visit to Iowa in November.
Yale Van Dyne Jr., left, and younger brother, Harry, during their visit to Iowa in November.

Four years ago, Yale Van Dyne Jr. considered walking on to play football at Iowa coming out of high school, but decided to pursue his opportunities in hockey instead. Now, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Van Dyne is returning to the gridiron and taking the Hawkeyes up on that walk-on opportunity after all. Next week, he will be starting classes at the University of Iowa and joining the team as a wide receiver this semester.

We caught up with Van Dyne to talk about his unique journey, following in his father’s footsteps as a walk-on receiver in the Big Ten, and his younger brother, Harry, who has a college decision of his own to make in the near future.

Read the complete interview below.

Q: First, can you take me back a few years? When did you graduate high school and what were the different options you looked at back then?

VAN DYNE: Yeah. I graduated high school (Bishop Miege) in 2013.

In 2013, I thought about walking on at Iowa after high school, but I was a hockey player too and at the time, we won the state championship and I got nominated as the MVP in the area. So I got a few calls from coaches for hockey after that and went to a few combines and gained a lot of interest. I kind of looked at my options and weighed them and thought that I was a good enough athlete for hockey that I’d be one of the better athletes out there.

So, after that, I went out to Chicago and played for the Chicago Mission AAA team. We were second in the nation my first year there. Then, I went up to Canada and I played OJHL for a little bit for a team there, but then I got traded to Portland, Maine and was on a team called the Portland Junior Pirates in the USPHL. I played there for the year and then came back and went out East again to play for the PAL Junior Islanders, which was a minor junior affiliate of the New York Islanders. I played out there for the year and still had some college interest, but not from the schools that I felt like were going to be the best fit, so I decided to come back home and train for football and see if I still had the option to walk on at Iowa. Luckily, they had a spot and I decided to come.

Q: Why Iowa? You mentioned looking at them out of high school too. What drew you to the Hawkeyes?

VAN DYNE: They’ve just got an unbelievable walk-on program. They’ve had a lot of guys in the past that have played and they really respect their walk-ons there, so I just felt like it was a spot where if I worked hard enough and proved myself, I might be able to get on the field and get a shot to play. Plus, I’ve been up there a few times and I just love the campus and the atmosphere and it’s in the Big Ten. They’ve got unbelievable academics along with a great football program, so I thought that would be the best fit.

Q: Your dad played wide receiver in the Big Ten too right?

VAN DYNE: Yeah, my dad played at the University of Michigan. He was also a walk-on and earned himself a scholarship after two years. He played alongside Desmond Howard. When Desmond won the Heisman Trophy, he was the receiver on the other side.

Q: Was going to that Iowa-Michigan game in November kind of surreal for your family?

VAN DYNE: It was, but it was a cool experience. Since we were up there for an Iowa visit, it was awesome to see the Hawks win. It was an unbelievable ending. I’m sure for my dad, he probably didn’t love it too much, but he wants the best for us so if Iowa is the place, he’s going to be a Hawkeye fan for life. It was just kind of a moment that we lived in and really enjoyed it.

Q: You already knew you wanted to go to Iowa at that point as long as it worked out right?

VAN DYNE: Yeah. I had wanted to go to Iowa since high school, so this was the spot that I was hoping would work out once the hockey thing ended. It’s a great place and I think it will be great for me.

Q: Going back to your dad’s experience walking on at Michigan, what advice has he given you?

VAN DYNE: He’s instilled in me that it’s not going to be easy coming in as a walk-on. You’ve got to prove yourself every day and work hard. That’s one thing he’s really harped on is just working hard to create an opportunity for yourself. He says anything is possible if you put your mind to it. That’s one of the big things he’s always said to me. It’s really good to have him as an advisor for me and a guy I can talk to because he’s been through it. It’s nice to have him in my corner.

Q: Are you headed up to Iowa for this semester?

VAN DYNE: Yeah. I’m actually driving up there right now. I have orientation tomorrow morning.

Q: What have the coaches said about the opportunity for you there?

VAN DYNE: They just said they’re excited to get me up there and see what I’m all about and where I fit in and can help the team out.

Q: Will you be a freshman or what year of eligibility?

VAN DYNE: I had to take some community college classes in Syracuse this past year so I could get 24 credit hours in order to transfer, so I think that will count as my redshirt year basically. When I get up to Iowa, I’m going to talk to the eligibility coordinator to kind of figure out what’s going on with that.

Q: Did they have to look back at some of the hockey leagues too to make sure you were eligible to play in college?

VAN DYNE: Yeah, I had to fill out an amateur status because I didn’t get paid for hockey, but they had to look back on that and had to review it with the NCAA. Everything checked out on that.

Q: This week your younger brother (Harry Van Dyne) picked up a scholarship offer from Iowa. What do you tell him as he gets ready to decide for himself this month?

VAN DYNE: He’s my brother, so obviously I’d love to have him play here, but I want what’s best for him. If it’s not Iowa, I’m going to support him fully. He’s got a big decision to make and I think he’ll choose wherever he fits best.

Q: Growing up, you were a few years apart, but in college you will almost be in the same class right?

VAN DYNE: Yeah, we’re four years apart, so he was coming into high school right when I was leaving. It would be pretty cool if he’d come play for the Hawks and we’d be on the same team at the same time. It’d be awesome, a dream come true.