Evan Kilstrom took four game day visits to Iowa State this past season. He saw the Cyclones hang tough with Big 12 champion Oklahoma, upset West Virginia and rally past Kansas State.
So when Iowa State's football coaches offered Kilstrom a preferred walk-on opportunity last month, the Pleasant Valley senior could not resist.
"I just knew the first time I was there, it is where I wanted to be," Kilstrom said. "I loved the coaches, the atmosphere and everything about the program.
"It is what I wanted in a college."
The 6-foot-4 and 285-pound interior offensive lineman chose the Cyclones over a walk-on opportunity with Nebraska.
He also had interest from South Dakota, Northern Iowa and a scholarship offer from Division II power Minnesota State-Mankato. Kilstrom also considered Division III University of Chicago for its academic reputation.
Kilstrom has been a two-year starter for the Spartans. Also PV's starting 285-pounder in wrestling, he played center and guard during his high school career.
"I think tenacity is the big thing I bring," Kilstrom said. "Wrestling has helped me become a better football player with the leverage and body position."
Kilstrom was a first team all-district and All-Metro selection and second team all-state choice in Class 4A by the Iowa Print Sportswriters Association.
During his junior season, Kilstrom formed a relationship with Iowa State. He attended one of its camps last summer.
Iowa State was 8-5 this past season, finishing third in the Big 12 and losing to Washington State 28-26 in the Alamo Bowl.
"You can't deny that program is going in an awesome direction right now," Kilstrom said. "Coach Matt Campbell was somebody I wanted to play under. Just the whole integrity of the program was something I wanted to be involved with."
Kilstrom said it will be essential to maintain his weight and increase his strength after the wrestling season. He'll report to Iowa State in August.
With a selective number of preferred walk-ons, Kilstrom believes he'll be given a fair opportunity to compete for playing time.
"The key is to stay motivated," Kilstrom said. "I just know at some point I want to be on the field. I'm not afraid of hard work, and I'm not afraid of the grind.
"The ultimate goal is to get a scholarship. I definitely feel that is within the realm of possibility."