City High senior Jake Leohr had the same wish as most kids who grow up in Iowa City in that he wanted to play football for the University of Iowa.
But his wish changed after the coaches at the University of South Dakota showed Leohr how much they wanted him.
Leohr committed to the Coyotes on Saturday.
“I grew up in Iowa City all my life and I dreamed of playing in Kinnick and being a Hawkeye,” said Leohr, who played linebacker, fullback and tight end for the Little Hawks in addition to being the punter. “But I figured I’d get a better opportunity to play at South Dakota or South Dakota State and I ended up choosing South Dakota.”
Leohr picked South Dakota’s scholarship offer over an offer from South Dakota State and a chance to be a preferred walk-on at Iowa. Leohr said the South Dakota coaches recruited him to play outside linebacker.
Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan also was recruiting the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Leohr.
“Reese Morgan came to our school and told me they would like me to be a preferred walk-on, and I considered it,” Leohr said. “But my best option was to play football at South Dakota.”
South Dakota finished only 4-8 this past season at the FCS level, but three of the losses were by six or fewer points.
City football coach Dan Sabers praised South Dakota’s recruiting approach with Leohr, making it obvious early on that Leohr was a priority for them.
“There is no question they really got after him pretty early this fall and really made a commitment to him early on,” Sabers said. “I’ve always told the kids if you find a place that really wants you, that means a lot. And there is no question that South Dakota really wanted him.”
Leohr missed each of City’s playoff games this past season after breaking his collar bone. The Little Hawks struggled without him, losing to Cedar Rapids Xavier 34-0 in the second round to cap an 8-3 season.
“Our numbers were down and to lose a kid of his ability really impacted us,” Sabers said. “I’m just grateful that we were able to get through as far as we could and create some real special memories with him. But, yeah, that was a huge loss for us.”
Sabers also praised Leohr and Leohr’s family for being thorough with the recruiting process.
“Jake and his family are well organized, so they’re going to have a plan before they go into anything,” Sabers said. “I’m going to miss his family as much as anything as far as all they’ve done for the program.”
One of the biggest adjustments for Leohr will be leaving Iowa City for the first time. The South Dakota campus is located in Vermillion, S.D.
“It’ll be a little weird,” Leohr said. “But once I get settled in Vermillion it’ll be a great experience, a new adventure.”