One-on-one with Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg

Daily Iowan Sports Editor Austin Hanson recently chatted with VanValkenburg at an Iowa football media availability session.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa defensive linemen Zach VanValkenburg rushes the passer during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Daily Iowan: First and foremost, I wanted to ask if you have a favorite TV show or guilty pleasure TV show?

Zach VanValkenburg: Favorite TV show? I always kind of finish them. But right now, I don’t have one. The last one I watched was called The Americans. You ever heard of that one?

DI: No, I haven’t heard of that one.

VanValkenburg: It was on like FX, I think — maybe a couple years ago. It’s about like two undercover KGB agents that pretend they’re Americans and live in America.

DI: Gotcha. Do you have a favorite movie then?

VanValkenburg: A favorite movie? That’s tough. I could say something cliché like Rocky IV or something. One movie I’ve always liked since I was a kid, you’ve probably never heard of it, is A Bridge Too Far. It’s like a 1960s war film.

DI: I’ve never heard of that.

VanValkenburg: I used to like it a lot.

DI: Gotcha. So everyone talks about how they have a go-to song that gets them fired up for a game. Do you have a go-to song for when you’re sad?

VanValkenburg: For when I’m sad? Um, yeah, I do have one. “Somewhere Else” by Louis the Child.

DI: What’s the difference between Iowa corn and Nebraska corn?

VanValkenburg: What’s the difference? Well, the sun shines a little brighter here. I mean, that’s about it. Maybe the mentality of the people helps [Iowa corn] grow taller.

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DI: On a more serious note, what brought you to Iowa? How did you go, “You know what, I’d love to go to a state with three million people in it?”

VanValkenburg: I’m from Michigan. It’s really not that much different. I think Iowa City’s a really nice place. Actually, the weather’s better here, so I like it. You know, when I was making my decision when I transferred, I wanted to be with a good head coach and a good coaching staff and people that kind of reflected my values. So, this place just stood out right away.

DI: If you had to choose between the two, black or gold?

VanValkenburg: Black or gold? I think I’d go with gold. I like the gold.

DI: What’d you think about the all-gold uniforms Iowa wore a couple years ago?

VanValkenburg: I liked them. Obviously, I wasn’t pleased with the result of the game. So, I think I’d like them a little bit more had we won. But, you know, I like alternates. Those are fun.

DI: Do you have a favorite memory as a Hawkeye?

VanValkenburg: Obviously, it’s tough to judge. [This year’s Cy-Hawk game] might end up being one. Obviously, that was a great game that might end up being one of them. I think the Wisconsin game last year was definitely nice too.

DI: Gotcha. Do you have a favorite restaurant here in Iowa City that you hit all the time?

VanValkenburg: In Iowa City? Man, that’s hard. A lot of times, we have a black [meal plan] card. So, our choices are kinda laid out for us. But out of those, I think I like Estela’s a lot. Tribute in Coralville, my girlfriend works there, so I’ve eaten there a lot.

DI: A lot of guys answer that question with Estela’s. What’s your favorite item on the menu there? What is it about that place?

VanValkenburg: I like the tacos. I’m pretty basic.

DI: Do you have a favorite football memory?

VanValkenburg: Obviously, there’s the cliché. Like, I won two championships in high school. You know, those were awesome. But honestly, if I had to say overall football memory, it’d probably be something from the last couple years. Like I said, that Wisconsin game was nice to cap off that season coming back from such an early deficit. We kinda gelled as a team. Hopefully we can make a memory even better this year.

DI: Do you love football? Are you a football guy?

VanValkenburg: Yeah, absolutely. It’s honestly weird, I don’t watch a lot of NFL football or anything like that. But when I do, I watch it from the perspective of my position and technique like that. But I can truly say I love the game itself. Maybe not the drama of the seasons that go on in the NFL and things like that, but I truly do love the game.

DI: Can you sit back and enjoy a game now?

VanValkenburg: It’s tough now to just watch. I see the technique of people and look at it from a more technical standpoint.

DI: What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked at a media availability session? Is it something I’ve asked you?

VanValkenburg: Gosh, that’s just mean. Honestly, I don’t know. I think at [Iowa football media day] there was someone that just asked me a question I had no answer for. I can’t remember what the question was at this point though. Maybe it was the one you just asked me.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.