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.

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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.

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