Dallas Clark has Iowa in his blood. He grew up in this state, was a multi-sport star at Twin River Valley High School and then played college football for the Hawkeyes.
After winning the John Mackey Award that goes to the nation’s best tight end in 2002, Indianapolis made Clark a first-round draft pick and he played 11 NFL seasons. He earned All-Pro status in 2009 and played for the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team.
Clark recently moved his family back to the Livermore area, where he grew up. All Iowa, this guy. And he knows something about living in a small state, and having undying support from the folks back home while achieving great things in the athletic arena.
“Iowans are the proudest people,” Clark said.
So who better to test my theory out on than him? To my way of thinking, Iowa high school products have had the best seven months in this state’s history.
Dan Gable, Kurt Warner, Bob Feller, Nile Kinnick, Judy Kimball, Shawn Johnson, Zach Johnson and Tom Brands all got to the highest level of their chosen sport. And that’s just an Hor d’oeuvre of Iowa greatness. But their achievements weren’t bunched together like the first seven months of this year.
Let’s start in January, when Anamosa High School graduate Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens was named to his fourth consecutive All-Pro team. In May, Pro Football Focus named the former Hawkeye the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
January is also the month that Denison High School’s Brandon Scherff accepted the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top interior lineman. Scherff joined Clark as one of the Hawkeyes’ 22 consensus all-Americans. In April, Scherff was the fifth player selected in the NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
And then we have the Ames High School tandem of Fred Hoiberg and Harrison Barnes. Hoiberg left Iowa State in June to coach at the highest level, the NBA, for the Chicago Bulls. Also in June, Barnes helped the Golden State Warriors beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA title.
FRED HOIBERG TIMELINE: From ‘Mayor’ of Ames to Bulls coach
And now there’s this Grand Slam thing. Jordan Spieth has already won the Masters and U.S. Open and will try to pick up the third leg in this week’s British Open at St. Andrews.
I know, I know, Spieth is a Texan. But the man on his bag, caddy Michael Greller, graduated from MOC-Floyd Valley High School in 1996. Spieth speaks volumes about the role Greller has played in his success.
And I haven’t even included Dowling Catholic’s Mike McCoy being low amateur at the U.S. Senior Open for a second straight year in June. His final-round 69 matched the lowest score ever shot by an amateur in the championship.
Nor does this list include Oskaloosa High School’s Jerry Smith, who won the Champions Tour’s Encompass Championship on Sunday.
“Hearing you knock off those people… until you hear it, you don’t realize all the success,” Clark said.
Clark agreed. It’s hard to beat that run. So take a bow, Iowa. Be proud. Californians might not care about achievements like this. But Iowans, by nature, relish the moment.
“They pay attention, and back their own,” Clark said. “You definitely feel like you have the backing of the entire state.”
Johnson has sensed the same thing as he’s climbed the golfing ladder, reaching the top step with a victory in the 2007 Masters.
“Those things are big back in Iowa,” Johnson said. “Quality people, with high values, high expectations and aspirations. People from Iowa aspire to be big and great. There’s nothing wrong with having dreams.”
And remember this. There’s more than five months remaining in 2015. Dream big, everybody.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.