A rough-cut Jewell

Iowa+linebacker+Josey+Jewell+walks+to+line+of+scrimmage+during+the+Iowa-NDSU+game+at+Kinnick+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+17%2C+2016.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FMargaret+Kispert%29

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell walks to line of scrimmage during the Iowa-NDSU game at Kinnick on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

By Courtney Baumann | [email protected]

Take the first left off Highway 52 north of the Upper Iowa River and Luther College in Decorah, and you’ll run smack-dab into 1,000-some acres of farmland. Actually, there’s a whole lot more than that, but that’s just what belongs to the Jewell family.

The property has been in the family for decades. Bobby, who runs the farm now, had it passed down to him from his father, Bob, who had it passed down to him from his father. When Bobby retires, he hopes to pass the farm down to his sons, Robbie and Josey.

Robbie is up in northeast Iowa helping out on the farm, but Josey is a little busy.

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Bobby feels as though Josey got the shaft when it comes to the whole “birthday” thing. He was born on Christmas Day, the youngest of four children.

Coincidentally, Josey was not the first of the family to be born on a holiday. The oldest, Jess, was born on Labor Day, followed by Samantha, who was born on Mother’s Day. Then there was Robbie, whose birth landed on Thanksgiving. It just seemed fitting Josey would follow suit.

The family usually celebrates Josey’s birthday on Dec. 28, which is also Bobby’s birthday.

“Christmas is pretty darn exciting, and to have your birthday be overlooked because of it is a little bit of a bummer,” Bobby said. “He’s handled it well, though.”

Josey handles most things well, especially growing up the youngest in a very athletic family. Jess was a four-time All-American in the discus and shot put at Luther. Samantha also went to Luther and became one of the only basketball players to score more than 1,000 points. Robbie followed in their footsteps and played safety and cornerback on the football team.

Even at a young age, Josey played with the older kids. Robbie is three years older, and it was not uncommon to see Josey roughhousing with Robbie and his friends.

It shaped him into a kid with a rough-and-tumble demeanor.

“They broke a lot of stuff as kids; my God, he and his brother would go to their cousins’ houses, and it was almost like, ‘Oh boy, here comes the Jewell boys, let’s put everything away,’ ” Bobby said. “They were just kind of rough.”

Josey’s family started to notice his athletic ability when he was young — really young. Actually, Bobby, for some reason, thought he ruined Josey’s whole career before he was 4 years old.

The date was Dec. 2, 1997. It was a half-day, and Josey was home with Bobby. One of the farm chores that day was moving an auger, and Josey was bound and determined to help Bobby out.

Bobby told his youngest son to push the wheel, but being the small child he was, Josey put his whole body into it — then flipped over the wheel. It rolled over his arm and broke it in two places.

Bobby’s immediate reaction?

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I just messed up this kid’s football career,’” he said. “I don’t know; I really thought I upset something that he was going to do someday with his physical ability.”

That afternoon in the hospital waiting room, Kirk Ferentz was all over the televisions.

He had just been announced as Iowa’s new head football coach, and Bobby swears he said, “Maybe one day Josey will play for that guy.”

***

Bill Post has been doing the football thing for a long time. The Decorah head coach is in his 44th year with the program — he’s been at the helm for 23.

(Video by Chase Stine)

He also played football himself before nabbing a coaching gig. Post spent his first two college years at Iowa Central before he transferred and finished his career at South Dakota State.

Needless to say, he can identify talent when he sees it, and he saw it in Josey Jewell.

“There were sometimes in the ninth grade where he just clobbered some kids, made some hits and plays that were pretty special,” Post said. “He’s like a bull in a china shop kind of guy. He’s just so intense when he plays, lights out all the time, 100 percent all the time.

“You could just sense it then that he was going to be something special.”

It’s uncommon for Post to bring up sophomores to the varsity team. After all, when a program averages around 100 players a year, it’s not really necessary to bring up younger players when there are plenty of upperclassmen to fill the spots.

Josey got the call to varsity the second week of his sophomore season.

“We needed a linebacker … He’s just such a physical player, and he was ready for it. A lot of sophomores are not ready to play varsity football,” Post said. “I could tell he was ready just by the way he beat up on the guys in the underneath program, at his level.”

He proved he was ready for the higher level of competition. That year, he recorded 42 solo tackles and 24 assists. He played on the offensive side of the ball, too. As a fullback, he rushed for 451 yards and 3 touchdowns. His work earned him second team all-district honors.

Heading into the next season as a junior with varsity experience, the other players looked to Josey for leadership. Being the quiet guy he is, Josey led by example rather than through his talk.

But when he did say something, everyone else listened.

“He played with such ferocity and physicality that the other guys respected that, and they just did it, too,” Post said. “All he had to do was get out there and make plays, and everyone else just rallied around him … He conducted such an air of confidence and leadership.”

During his junior season, Josey earned first team all-state honors and led his team to the state championship, where the Vikings eventually lost and took runner-up.

The next year, Decorah did itself one better and won the state title for the first time since 1989.

Decorah went 14-0 that year, 2012. Every week was tougher than the next, because the Vikings felt the need to keep the unbeaten record going. The pressure did not faze the players, and they rolled straight through the state championship game.

That day was somewhat of a blur for Post. He’ll tell you he was in “La-La Land.”

“To me, it was a very emotional time, probably the most emotional time I’ve had,” Post said. “Our guys, that year, that game, were just so focused. The seniors, Josey’s guys, were just a focused group. He was focused, and kids followed him, stayed after him, and believed in him.”

Josey excelled yet again that year, earning first team all-state honors, Des Moines Register Elite all-state first team, and was named all-area Player of the Year by the Cedar Rapids Gazette/KCRG-TV.

The accolades alone should have shown college coaches that he was a player worthy of their attention, but Josey was left waiting by the one school he really wanted to hear from — Iowa.

It was just two weeks before national signing day when the long-awaited call from the Hawkeyes finally came.

The time leading up to it was tense, though. Josey had always wanted to play for the Hawkeyes, and that he had not heard from them bothered him. It might be superfluous to say he was mad or frustrated, but he was wondering what was taking them so long.

If all else fell through, Josey could have played at Luther, as did his older brother and as many other Decorah football players do, or he could have taken his talent to Cedar Falls and played for Northern Iowa.

Bobby doesn’t think he would have done that. He believes Josey would probably have walked on at Iowa just to prove everyone wrong.

“That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s highly motivated by people telling him he can’t. That really trips his trigger,” Bobby said. “He loves to prove people wrong.”

***

Like sports, school has always come relatively easy to Josey. He was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and named to the academic all-state team both his junior and senior years.

When college rolled around, Josey had to try a little harder than he was accustomed to, though.

It hasn’t been too difficult of an adjustment; Jewell has been on the Academic All-Big Ten team in both full seasons he has played at Iowa so far.

Iowa defensive end Josey Jewell attempts to block NDSU quarterback Easton Stick's pass to running back Chase Morlock during the Iowa-NDSU game at Kinnick on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. NDSU defeated Iowa in the final seconds of the game with a 37-yard field goal, 23-21. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)
Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell breaks up a pass intended for running back Chase Morlock during the Iowa-NDSU game at Kinnick on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

It’s satisfying for his parents to see Josey doing so well. He is an environmental studies and business major and continues to work on a project he started in an entrepreneurial class a couple of years ago.

The concept is an ear tag for cattle that is set up by GPS. Rather than building fences around thousands of acres of land, farmers can set boundaries electronically, and if cattle get too close, the ear tag will administer a shock.

The original assignment was to think of an invention, pitch it to the class, and develop a plan for it.

Unable to think of anything right away, Josey called his siblings and his dad to bounce ideas off of. Bobby noted how much he hates fences, their upkeep, and chasing cattle around, and the light bulb turned on.

Even though the class ended Josey’s redshirt freshman season, he has continued to work on the project with a group of others to see where it will go.

Josey and those he is working on the project with are in the process of getting the idea patented, but it can be a drawn-out procedure that will take some time before they get any news on it.

Besides, being in season does not allot very much time, if at all, for Josey to work on the project

“I can’t get a lot done with it, so I’m just trying to get as many people as I can to help out with that and really just concentrate on football,” Jewell said. “Maybe when we get some time off with football, during spring or something, I’ll go back to it.”

 ***

In Ferentz’s first 17 years as head coach at Iowa, he had never brought a non-senior to Big Ten media days. That changed in this year, when he brought Jewell, a junior, to Chicago.

Ferentz said it was a fairly simply decision. Jewell was the first sophomore elected as captain that he had on a team, and the staff thought he was an obvious choice to be one of the three to speak at media days.

“He’s achieved something that no player’s done in the last 17 years at our place. He’s a tremendous representative,” Ferentz said about Jewell in late July. “He’s done a great job on the field, a great leader. We’re thrilled to have him here.”

Jewell was voted as one of Iowa’s 2015 permanent team captains on the defensive side and was the only sophomore that year to be named to the Leadership Group.

Other players on the team, especially those on the defense, look to Josey to be a leader. Even in the first game of the season, when he was ejected after a targeting call, Josey still finagled a way to give pointers to his fellow linebackers.

“I had some points for a couple guys when they came in, some points for [Jack Hockaday] since he was at the middle linebacker position, so really just trying to help the guys out, since I went out on a penalty like that,” Jewell said. “I was really just trying to help the team out.”

The main reason it took so long for Iowa to finally budge and offer Jewell a scholarship was because he did not quite have the numbers the coaches would have liked to see. He wasn’t big enough, he wasn’t fast enough, and he was only a two-star recruit.

Reese Morgan was Jewell’s saving grace.

A longtime assistant to Ferentz, Morgan saw something in Jewell and pushed for the head coach to give the kid from small-town Iowa a shot.

Even without the numbers, Post knew Iowa was the place for his three-year letter winner.

“You don’t always measure it by physicality; you have to measure it by heart and what you’ve got inside there,” Post said. “He had it.”

The way Ferentz talks about Jewell is eerily similar to the way his high-school coach felt.

“He’s just been really consistent,” Ferentz said. “Josey has got a real serious demeanor, very mature, and he’s just a joy to have out there on the field. He’s not maybe the most vocal guy, but when he talks, I think everybody kind of pays attention to what he’s saying.”

***

Josey wasn’t supposed to be the first Jewell to don the Hawkeye insignia. Bob came to Iowa City in 1945 on a football scholarship but never quite made it to the field.

Before the season started, doctors found a brain tumor, and Bob spent six weeks in the hospital, near death at times. Eventually, he went back to Decorah and spent the rest of his life on the farm.

Josey and his grandfather were close. It might not have been obvious to everyone, though. The two were a lot alike and would often bicker because of this.

But still, they had “a twinkle in their eye for each other,” according to Bobby.

Just days before Bob Sr. died, he called some members of the family — including Bobby and Robbie — into his hospice room. Bobby said the eldest Jewell specifically called Robbie aside and told him, “You make sure your brother Josey always stays humble.”

Those words still resonate with Bobby.

“That’s the kind of man my dad was, and Josey is that way as well,” Bobby said. “He’s a lot like his grandpa; he’s a very humble man. I always want it to stay that way.”

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