Bobby La Gesse/Land of 10
Linebacker Logan Klemp promised his grandfather he would play for Iowa. Now, Klemp gets to live his, and his grandpa's, dream.

Promise kept: Logan Klemp’s journey to Iowa fulfills vow to dying grandfather

Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation stories as Iowa writers Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse travel the country to meet the incoming class of freshmen. Here’s a look at 3-star linebacker Logan Klemp. 

JEWELL, Iowa — Logan Klemp plopped down on the hospital bed next to his grandpa, Jerry Klemp.

As always, the two discussed Iowa football. Instead of Logan’s usual game recaps, the kindergartener made a proclamation as they sat across the street from Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa Hospital.

Logan was going to play football for the Hawkeyes.

For the family, it was a nice moment, something it cherished — just as it had with all those visits before Jerry, who battled leukemia, died at 62 from complications following a bone marrow transplant in 2005.

But for Logan, it became a pact. Earning an Iowa scholarship was his focus, even as the 3-star South Hamilton (Jewell, Iowa) High School linebacker was days away from Signing Day without an offer last winter.

“It wasn’t something I said,” Logan said. “It was a promise I made to my grandpa.”

He needed to find a way to fulfill it.

• • •

Jerry grew up an Iowa fan. He passed on the tradition to his son, Corey Klemp, who passed it down to his son, Logan.

If there wasn’t a game to watch, Jerry searched for arrowheads in creeks or went mushroom hunting with Logan and his sister, Avery. Through their activities, Logan and Jerry grew close.

“I loved being around him,” Logan said. “His presence was something very special and just for our family, he was a tremendous man.”

Logan Klemp was extremely close with his grandfather, Jerry Klemp. (Klemp Family/courtesy)

In the fall of 2004, Jerry debated having a bone marrow transplant. He had suffered from leukemia for years, and his doctors said standard treatments wouldn’t prolong his life. The transplant could save it.

The thought of seeing a granddaughter walk down the aisle or watching Logan play varsity football swayed his decision. Jerry decided to get the transplant.

“It was all about family,” Corey said.

Each Friday, the Klemps headed for the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. They spent the weekend at the hospital with Jerry. There was never any debate if Logan and Avery were going to the hospital.

“The kids wanted to be there,” Corey said.

On Saturdays, when Iowa played home football games, Corey took Logan to the north parking ramp to watch the action from the top level. Back then, it was a good view, with only an obstructed view of the north end zone.

“Logan was super active and never sat still,” Corey said. “He was mesmerized watching the Hawkeyes.”

The combination of watching his favorite team and breaking down what happened with Grandpa led Logan to make his promise.

When the football season ended, Jerry’s condition worsened. He died on Jan. 8, 2005. Logan still tears up when discussing his grandpa’s death, saying he misses Jerry and thinks about him often.

“Both our kids handled it well,” Logan’s mother, Amy, said. “We found out later that [Jerry] talked to them about the spiritual side of things and prepared them in a sense.”

• • •

When Logan was in fifth or sixth grade, Corey jotted down a quote former NFL coach Herm Edwards repeated on ESPN.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

He showed it to Logan. The saying struck a chord with the youngster, especially when it came to the promise he had made about playing for Iowa. Logan printed the quote and hung it in his room.

“If you say you are going to do this, you better have a plan to back this up,” Logan said. “Making that plan will really funnel all of your energy to that goal.”

Logan started his own workout regimen. Nothing fancy. Just push-ups and sit-ups, but he started writing down how many he did each day. He stayed late at sports practices to do extra work and mimicked what the best South Hamilton players did during workouts.

It was then that his parents realized Logan saying he wanted to play for Iowa was more than just a story they told. It was something he was chasing.

“He has never been much of a talker,” Amy said. “His goals and plans, we knew, but it was more from what he was doing and how he acted on the field and all the extra work he did rather than him bringing it up all the time.”

Logan is driven. It’s one of the first things those close to him bring up. That’s why it didn’t surprise them to see Logan throw himself into sports training at a young age.

He developed into a do-everything-star for South Hamilton. He played linebacker, running back and wide receiver for the Class 1A school, setting the program single-game record of 294 rushing yards.

Logan earned second-team all-state honors at linebacker as a junior, and the Iowa Football Coaches Association named him the Class 1A Player of the Year as a senior.

“We asked a lot of him,” said Corey, who also is the South Hamilton football coach. “He made sure everyone was lined up on defense. After making the stop, he didn’t come off the field. We might give him the ball 40 times a game. He did everything we needed to win games.”

But his play wasn’t enough for Iowa to extend an offer.

• • •

The first call from the Hawkeyes came in April 2017. Iowa wanted Logan to come to campus.

He made it for a football camp in June. Logan quickly built a good rapport with linebackers coach Seth Wallace.

“We formed a bond over camp, so to speak,” Logan said. “I think that is what really helped. It showed him we can really work together and there is something possible here.”

Iowa liked Klemp. He fit the team’s blue-collar mentality.

“We always kept in contact with him because we knew this was a kid that we wanted on our football team,” Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell said. “If we were fortunate enough to get him to walk on, that’s a great win, and if not, if a spot opened up where we could have one available, this is a kid we are going to want. And that’s exactly what happened.”

As a senior, Logan Klemp rushed for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns at South Hamilton. He also recorded 82.5 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. (Klemp Family/courtesy)

Communication between Logan and Iowa was sporadic during his senior football season. The Hawkeyes had offered several linebacker prospects and needed to see how things played out with the other recruits before making any additional offers.

Meanwhile, Logan kept his options open. In December, Logan had the chance to sign with FCS programs during the early signing period. He wrestled with the decision because Iowa was his dream school.

Logan thought about his grandpa a lot during the recruiting process and what Jerry would have told him.

“He was always supportive,” Logan said. “He wouldn’t have been disappointed or anything. Whatever is best he’d want me to do.”

Communication with the Hawkeyes increased once his football season ended. Iowa said an offer could arrive in the coming weeks.

He wanted to let things play out with the Hawkeyes. So, he delayed signing until February.

• • •

Logan stayed confident, but his parents knew the decision weighed on him. Logan discussed taking a scholarship somewhere else so they didn’t have to pay for his college. His parents appreciated the gesture but wanted Logan to do what was best for him.

“It was grueling,” Amy said. “It was up and down. It was exciting, and then it was stressful and then it was frustrating.”

On Jan. 30, eight days before Signing Day, the Hawkeyes reached out to Corey. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Morgan wanted to visit Logan at school the next day. Logan screamed in celebration upon hearing the news.

On Jan. 31, Logan discussed his situation with Ferentz. One linebacker scholarship remained. The Hawkeyes planned to let him know by the end of the week if an offer was coming.

The next two days dragged until Iowa sent a frantic message to Corey. Logan needed to contact the coaching staff immediately.

Corey found Logan at the high school and ushered him into the principal’s office. Logan called Wallace, who offered a scholarship. Logan accepted before Wallace finished talking.

After chatting with Wallace for about 10 minutes, Logan walked out of the principal’s office with the biggest smile his mom ever saw. Cheers erupted from students and faculty who gathered around, awaiting word.

Finally, Logan fulfilled his promise.

“That was an amazing day,” Logan said. “I got offered. It was awesome. It was a lot of celebration because I had finally accomplished that goal.”

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