More than half of the 100 players on the University of Northern Iowa football team went to a high school in Iowa.
Ten transferred from another college.
Austin Errthum is in both of those categories.
Errthum, whose hometown is Kalona, is the son of Jamey and Katie Errthum.
Errthum is a Mid-Prairie graduate who attended Drake University out of high school, then went to UNI.
“The best part of UNI is the people are very friendly and I have met a great community at St. Stephen Catholic student center as well,” Errthum said. “It is what outsiders would consider a typical Iowa environment and I am proud of that, not to mention one of the best teaching schools in the Midwest.”
At Drake, he played in all 19 soccer matches as a freshman.
“I just fit better in the UNI community,” Errthum said on his decision to transfer. “Drake was great for soccer, but didn’t fit me as a student. UNI is a great community of people. I transferred because I felt I didn’t want to regret not trying to play football in college and felt it was what God was calling to me.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior was recently named the Missouri Valley Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the Panther’s 26-16 win over No. 13 Illinois State Nov. 3.
“Special teams is very important because roughly 17 percent of plays are them throughout the game, and it can swing the game easily with a big return or switching the field with a punt, or making a field goal and putting points on the board,” Errthum said. “Obviously for me, they are even more important because that is the only phase of the game I am in on and can impact the game by.”
Errthum was 4 for 4 in field goals and 2 for 2 in point after touchdowns. He hit from 30, 30, 27 and tied his second-longest kick of the season at 43 yards.
“It felt good (to win the award) knowing all my hard work is paying off, and it makes me want to continue to strive to do my best and continue to improve and get better,” Errthum said.
He was also great in kickoffs, finding the end zone on every kick to average 65 yards per kickoff and notching six touchbacks on seven kicks.
Errthum leads the Valley in field goals with 14 and has the highest percentage at 82.4 percent (14 of 17). He also leads the conference in kickoff average (63.8 yards per kick), Net (41.8 YPK) and touchbacks (33).
He is the fifth Panther to earn Player of the Week honors in 2018-19. Eli Dunne (Offense), Duncan Ferch (Defense), Cal Twait (Offensive Line) and Deion McShane (Newcomer) earned honors previously.
Playing football at the next level is a challenge, yet very rewarding in a lot of ways.
“The college atmosphere is great,” Errthum said. “There are more people than high school, and people go crazy with tailgating. You feel like people look up to you on a bigger scale than high school and it’s cool to be in that spotlight and be a role model. Also, the competition and players are obviously a step up, so it is cool to see the pace of the game change and have each kick matter and be a challenge mentally.”
Playing a sport in college is a very time-consuming task, especially while working on a major in biology.
“It is a very busy day,” Errthum said. “I usually am up around 5:30 a.m. and doing some sort of work until 9 p.m. and then I try to head to bed right away. Sleep is important, as is eating right. I try to multi-task by rehabbing and planning at the same time and staying organized is something I have always been good at by playing soccer and football at the same time throughout middle and high school, so that is a key component as is time management. It isn’t so bad once you get a schedule and stick to it.”
He played soccer at Mid-Prairie and during his time on the football field once lined up to kick a 65-yarder. He was successful on a 58-yard attempt as a junior.
He earned all-state honors as a kicker in three consecutive football seasons and was a midfielder for the Golden Hawks soccer team, helping his team to a state runner-up finish as a senior and earned all-state honors. He was also all-state as a junior and sophomore and set the school record for career goals and assists.
Being a Golden Hawk was good preparation for his college career.
“In terms of a development standpoint, Tramain Johnson was a great influence for me mentally and physically in the weight room and then Pete Cavanaugh was great for me as a coach because he let me kick at practice a lot and we tried a lot of field goals, so I got a lot of game reps,” Errthum said.
While his high school provided a great support system for him, it was his home life that was the biggest football influence on his life.
“My family was always there for me,” Errthum said. “They have paid for me to get professional coaching and go to camps, but also shag for me kicking in my backyard and have put in a lot of time. Also, just supporting me through the ups and downs I’ve had. They are definitely a rock for me and support me in any way possible.”