Some of the best football players to ever don a uniform in the state of Iowa have played in the Iowa Shrine Bowl All Star Football Classic.
And four area athletes will add their name to the long list this summer as Marshalltown's Tyler Kluver, South Tama County's Kyle Stephenson, West Marshall's Colby Dunn and Grundy Center's Dylan Lyman have all been selected to play in the prestigious all-star game.
This year's game, the 41st of its kind, will be held at the UNI-Dome on Saturday, July 27. The game highlights a week-long event that also includes a parade, banquet and mini-camp for children in the Shriners Hospital in Minnesota.
"The university recognizes that the Shrine Bowl is more than just a football game," Northern Iowa Athletic Director Troy Dannen said. "The education the participants receive through what is often their first experience with less fortunate young children lasts a lifetime. More importantly, the benefit for the Shriners Children's Hospitals is the great legacy of the Shrine Bowl, and the university looks forward to the opportunity to assist the enhancement of this legacy."
The four area athletes selected this year will join a long list of former area preps who have participated in the event, including Marshalltown's Ty Steffensen (2012), Mark Duncan (2011) and Jared Carlson (2010), West Marshall's Dalton Ferch (2012), Logan Chesler (2011) and Drake Ferch (2010), North Tama's Blade Bradley (2012) and Brendon Boerm (2011), Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Parker Bolt (2012) and Colo-NESCO's Kody Larsen (2011).
"I am glad we have had players picked for this game pretty much routinely," Marshalltown coach Dave Holdiman said. "It says something about our program and our community."
Other notable athletes to have played in the game include current Iowa Hawkeyes Nate Meier, Austin Blythe, Eric Simmons and James Morris as well as Gavin Glenn of ADM.
"I am pumped, it is definitely a great honor," said Stephenson, who rushed for a Class 3A best 2,133 yards and 33 touchdowns this past year for the Trojans. "Not everyone gets to go so I am honored that they picked me."
Stephenson said he is looking forward to playing with Kluver, a former teammate when both played for Marshalltown in junior high school. Kluver has had quite the ride this past season with the Under Armour All-Star Game and with his commitment to the University of Iowa.
"This is a great honor and it's just been a fairytale for me this past year," said Kluver, who heads to Iowa as a long snapper. "I definitely have to take a step back and realize how lucky I am to do all of these things."
Both Kluver and Stephenson will be teammates on the South Squad, along with Dunn. Lyman will play on the North Squad.
Kluver finished with 98 tackles and six sacks to lead the Bobcats' defense this past season. He last played in the UNI-Dome during his freshman season when the Bobcats were playing in the Class 4A semifinals against Dowling Catholic.
"That was a memorable season and a memorable game," said Kluver. "The atmosphere is crazy there. I am looking forward to bringing my high school career to an end on that field."
Holdiman said he is very proud of his starting linebacker.
"It is a great honor to be picked for this game," said Holidman, who was a Shrine Bowl head coach in 2011. "It is more than just being a good football player. We are real proud of Tyler. He has been an outstanding player for us."
Stephenson will play for Iowa Western Community College next year. Aside from his crazy good rushing statistics, he also had 150 yards receiving and a score while recording 67 tackles and six sacks on defense. He also returned a kickoff for a score and tallied a defensive touchdown.
"My hope is that I go to Iowa Western and get the attention of some bigger schools," Stephenson said of the defending national champion Reivers. "Playing in the Shrine Bowl is a big deal. I am looking forward to seeing all the other talented players in the state."
Dunn, who has signed with Drake University, was a lineman for the West Marshall football team this past season. The first-team Class 2A all-stater had 78 tackles and four sacks on defense and played a key role on an offensive line that paved the way for Duncan Ferch to lead Class 2A in rushing with 2,264 yards and 33 touchdowns.
"It means a lot to be selected," said Dunn, whose dad Mark also played in the Shrine Bowl game. "I am happy to be representing my school and playing in a game with so many good athletes."
Lyman was an all-stater for the Spartans this past year after rushing for 862 yards and scoring six touchdowns on offense and collecting 49 tackles and three interceptions on defense.
"It's an awesome privilege, and it feels good to know that other coaches think I am good enough to be playing in this game," said Lyman, who will walk-on to Iowa State this fall. "It is going to be sweet playing at the UNI-Dome. We have watched games there every season, and it will be a great experience."
Each team will consist of 48 players.
Other notable athletes playing with Kluver, Stephenson and Dunn on the South squad include Clint Boffeli (Iowa Western) of West Des Moines Valley, Matthew Haack (Arizona State) of Dowling Catholic, Bo Bower (Iowa) of West Branch, Ryan Glenn (Iowa State) of Waukee, Luke Sargent of Southeast Polk, Shaq Wells of Urbandale and Corbin Blythe (Iowa) of Williamsburg.
Lyman will be joined on the North squad by future Iowa Hawkeyes Ike Boettger of Cedar Falls and Trev Hadachek of Union Community. All-state quarterback Reggie Schulte of Cedar Rapids Xavier also is a North squad member.
The game had been held at Jack Trice Stadium on the campus of Iowa State University for the past 12 years. The Shrine Bowl was forced to change the venue because of new NCAA rules.
"I think it will be nice not having to deal with the heat in July," Dunn said of playing in the UNI-Dome as opposed to playing a Jack Trice Stadium. "I am not used to the turf, but it will be fun playing there again."
There are a handful of ways athletes can be chosen to play in the Iowa Shrine Bowl, including a process of nominations of coaches, balloting by state-wide sports media professionals and official invitation from a representative of the Iowa Shrine Bowl.