Inside evolving recruitment of Roland-Story's Zach Twedt, an Iowa State commit and emerging Iowa Hawkeyes priority

Matthew Bain
The Des Moines Register

STORY CITY, Ia. — After joining Iowa's coaching staff in May, Jay Niemann, who was taking over for Hawkeyes in-state recruiter Reese Morgan, called Roland-Story head coach Aaron Stensland.

Niemann wanted to introduce himself, Stensland remembered, and check out the team.

And when the new Iowa assistant coach got to Story City, one player caught his eye.  

That player was Zach Twedt, then a 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore, who played linebacker, tight end, running back, safety, wide receiver ... and just about anything else.

"Coach said (Zach) reminds him of his boys — (former and current Iowa linebackers) Ben and Nick," Stensland said. "He was like, 'Boy, he reminds me of them.'"

At the time, Twedt had been verbally committed to Iowa State since January. That didn't deter Iowa, though. Linebackers coach Seth Wallace came out to see Twedt play a baseball game that summer. Then, the Hawkeyes invited him to a June camp in Iowa City. And on June 11, they offered him.

Roland-Story's Zach Twedt poses for a portrait on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 in Story City. Twedt verbally committed to ISU his sophomore year.

Now, as Twedt enters Week 3 of his junior season as a consensus three-star 2021 prospect, his recruitment is essentially open. He is still committed to Iowa State, but he's hearing others, like Iowa, out.

The Cyclones have not contacted him since Sept. 1, when colleges could start calling junior prospects directly. 

"At first, they were pretty open to the idea of him checking things out (at other schools)," Stensland said of Iowa State. "But I think as things have gotten more serious, I think they’ve probably backed off some. They’ve got to recruit other kids."

Added Twedt: "That’s part of the game, part of the business, part of their job, part of my job at the same time."

Meanwhile, Iowa has made a heavy recruiting push. The Hawkeyes hosted Twedt for the Hawkeye Tailgater and again last weekend. Schools such as Louisville, Nebraska, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State have also reached out.

Twedt is still interested in the Cyclones and has nothing but respect for Matt Campbell and his staff. But he committed early. And that commitment, he said, was partially motivated by rumors tying Campbell to the open Ohio State job at the time.

Of course, Campbell remained at Iowa State. But Twedt, at the time, was worried what might happen if someone else took over in Ames. 

"The new coach could have taken away my offer because he hadn’t seen me before," Twedt explained. "So, having that verbal commitment just kind of solidified my position there, if Coach Campbell had left."

Twedt, who currently checks in at 6-3 and 215, is an intriguing prospect because much of his football potential is still untapped. He plays four sports in high school — football, basketball, baseball and track and field.

For most of his young life, baseball was his main sport.

He played in all the all-star games. He played with club teams and with regional all-American teams down at tournaments in Florida. He played with Roland-Story's varsity team as an eighth-grader.

It wasn't until Iowa State started showing football interest after his freshman season that Twedt shifted his college focus to the gridiron.

He still excels in his other sports. On the track last spring, Twedt recorded season-bests of 11.64 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 24.09 seconds in the 200-meter dash, as a 6-3, 215-pounder likely to play linebacker or tight end in college.

"For 6-3 and 215? That’s fast. You don’t have human bodies that move around like that," Stensland said. "When somebody takes him and his focus is football and weights and training all year round? When he’s a sophomore, junior and senior? Those will be his peak years in college as football player. Right now, we’ve just got a great athlete and we’re trying to harness that. But he’s still learning the game, learning his own body.

"With him, you know what you’re getting Day 1, but what is he going to be in Year 5? I have no idea, but it could be a dangerous man on the football field."

Roland-Story's Zach Twedt practices with the Norsemen on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 in Story City. Twedt verbally committed to ISU his sophomore year.

In terms of his recruitment, Twedt is mostly putting things on the back-burner and focusing on his junior season at Roland-Story.

Twedt said Iowa has been understanding of where his priorities are.

"That was the thing I respected most about Iowa: They put my priorities first," Twedt said. "That’s going to be our main priority as a player and as a coach, definitely going to put Roland-Story first.

"(I like Iowa's) culture so far. Just the way they go about things. They like to keep small numbers, recruiting-wise, which is a nice thing. And one of the biggest (things) is they recruit in-state. I’d get a chance to hopefully play with some other teammates or people I’ve played against in the past."

Twedt doesn't have any additional visits planned. He also works on his family farm, and the upcoming harvest will make it difficult to take full Saturdays off for gameday visits.

He does have his weekdays planned, though: Wake up at 5:30 a.m., tend to the calves, take a shower, lift weights at school, go to class, come home and eat, do homework, go to bed by 8:30 p.m. and start it all again the next day.

Oh, and football games Friday nights.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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