Isaiah Bruce caught the attention of Iowa football coaches during a camp last summer in Iowa City.
Because he did, that allowed Hawkeye assistant coach Seth Wallace to catch a glimpse of Iowa’s latest verbal commitment, Gennings Dunker, as he walked the hallways at Lena-Winslow High School.
“I don’t think Gennings would be in the position he’s in now if Isaiah wasn’t in the position he’s in. One thing led to another,’’ said Ric Arand, the coach of the football program at the 236-student high school in northwest Illinois for the past 22 seasons.
“I think there has been a lot of luck involved. Schools the size of Iowa or the other bigger programs don’t typically seek us out.’’
Instead, first Bruce and then Dunker have shown Iowa coaches that they are worthy of being offered a scholarship by a Big Ten program.
Bruce, a 6-foot-2, 245 pound defensive lineman, became part of Iowa’s 2020 recruiting class when he verbally committed on Nov. 1.
The 6-5, 260-pound Dunker, an offensive lineman, became the first player to commit to the Hawkeyes’ 2021 recruiting class on Sunday after participating in a camp in Iowa City.
“They’re two totally different kids, but I see what Iowa’s coaches see in them,’’ Arand said. “Isaiah is not as tall as Gennings, but is arguably the best athlete in our area right now. He has an explosive first step. Gennings is a tall, big-bodied kid who is just starting to grow into his frame from an athletic standpoint.’’
Bruce was a dominant player as a tight end on a Lena-Winslow team which won the 2017 Illinois Class 1A state title, the most recent of the three state championships the Panthers have won in the last nine seasons.
“Isaiah was a huge part of that team, explosive and fast, and he went to the camp at Iowa just because he wanted to become a better player, something he did on his own,’’ Arand said.
After participating in the portion of the camp designed for skill players, Bruce was asked if he had any interest in working out with defensive linemen.
He did that at a camp a couple of weeks later and ultimately was offered a scholarship.
That led Wallace to Lena-Winslow, where in addition to visiting with Bruce he spotted Dunker in the hallway.
“He asked me who that big kid was and what size shoes he wore. I told him 17, 18 depending on the shoe, and suddenly coach Wallace wanted to know more about Gennings,’’ Arand said.
A visit from offensive line coach Tim Polasek followed as did an invitation to participate in Iowa’s junior day in February. He returned to campus for a camp Sunday and committed shortly after coach Kirk Ferentz offered him a scholarship at the end of the day.
Dunker didn’t hesitate. He grew up an Iowa fan, born in Des Moines. His father, Mike, grew up in Wilton and his mother, Michelle, is a Muscatine native.
Bruce and Dunker share more than the same high school. They both have a multi-sport pedigree.
Bruce excels in basketball and has recorded top-10 finishes in the shot put at the Illinois Class 1A state track and field championships the past two seasons.
Dunker competes in track and field and wrestling, where he filled a key lineup spot at 220 pounds on a team which won the Illinois Class 1A state team duals championship.
“They are both good all-around athletes and for both of them, they’ve been in the right place at the right time,’’ Arand said. “They’ve worked hard to be in that place, and that has given them a tremendous opportunity.’’