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Academics First and Football Second

Brett Van SlotenBrett Van Sloten will suit up one final time in an Iowa football uniform at the 2014 Outback Bowl. Playing in a premier New Year’s Day bowl game is a great reward for countless hours of work on the practice field and in the weight room for the Decorah, Iowa, native. Van Sloten’s biggest reward, however, came two weeks ago on a Sunday in December.

Iowa’s starting senior right tackle will most likely get a chance to play in the NFL, fulfilling a childhood dream. But receiving his degree from the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication in the classroom.

“My parents and the coaching staff here at Iowa always preached academics first and football second,” Van Sloten says. “That’s the motto I took. I wanted to be a great football player but I also realized that you can’t play football your whole life. Getting a degree and an education is very important.”

Obtaining a degree was something Van Sloten took seriously, and his academic record shows it. He is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and was a CoSIDA/Capital One District VI Academic All-America selection.

Van Sloten wasn’t the only player this season to earn academic honors. Thirteen other Hawkeyes joined Van Sloten on the Academic All-Big Ten honoree list.

“Academics is a huge focus and that gets explained on a daily basis here,” Van Sloten says. “Coach (Kirk Ferentz) emphasizes academics, and having that many guys recognized by the Big Ten is a tribute to the program, the university, and the values instilled not only on the football side, but in academics as well.”

Van Sloten built an impressive football resume with his performances on the field. Having a degree from an institution like the UI will only strengthen his professional resume.

“Having a degree from the Tippie College of Business and the University of Iowa will hopefully give me an edge,” Van Sloten says. “I think it will. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot here.”

Taking on a challenging internship, on top of football and academics, should also boost Van Sloten's resume. He has served as an intern at the UI Foundation for the past two years, assisting with the summer I-Club banquet circuit and helping with donor relations.

“I wish everyone could see what goes on at the foundation and go through that experience,” Van Sloten says. “Just thanking donors, whether it’s football-related, business-related, or life-related. They donate their hard-earned money to the university and that’s what keeps everything going.”

After going behind-the-scenes with the UI Foundation, Van Sloten knows bowl season isn’t just a busy time for the football staff. Preparation for the always-popular Hawkeye Huddle and numerous other events organized by the UI Foundation keep Van Sloten’s coworkers on the go.

“They definitely have their plates full with a lot of things,” Van Sloten says. “I’m sure our donors are excited that we are going somewhere warm. I know a lot goes into (bowl preparation) to help our experience as players too. Hats off to all the staff over there at the foundation that helps contribute to a successful bowl trip.”

When it comes time for job interviews, whether it’s with an NFL team or a major player in the business world, Van Sloten will be prepared.

“The University of Iowa has taught me how to work hard and set priorities,” he says. “Obviously football is very important but academics is the main focus. I’ve learned a lot in my time and very thankful that I attended the University of Iowa.”

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