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 offensive lineman Cody Ince.
BALSAM LAKE, Wis. — An old logging trail in Wisconsin led Cody Ince to one of the most dramatic moments in his young life.
Ince and his father, Marty, are hunters. It’s their passion. Marty and his large family grew up hunting in west central Wisconsin and they’ve passed along their love of the sport to the next generation. Cody, in particular, has taken to the outdoors.
The future Iowa offensive lineman and his father took a trip last fall in a wooded area seeking a black bear. For the first time since he was 12, Cody received a bear-hunting tag and he wanted to bag one. With a team of hounds, Cody and Marty headed out on a father-son excursion that brought them closer as a family.
“It was a fun day,” Marty Ince said.
Cody Ince, 18, hardly is soft-spoken but he doesn’t say much. His 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame speaks for itself on the football field and basketball court. Ince was dominant at small-school Unity for four seasons in becoming an all-state right tackle and then manning the nose on defense. On the basketball court, Cody dunks with ease and sometimes runs the point before settling in at center.
His athletic features are obvious and part of the reason why he landed multiple scholarship offers from several Big Ten and Division I schools last spring. Virginia came first. Then it flowed like a tidal wave. Ultimately, it came down to Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota State. The small-school feel at Iowa coupled with the plentiful hunting and fishing options put the Hawkeyes in the lead.
Ince’s host on his official visit was Levi Paulsen, also an avid outdoorsman with his twin brother Landan. They told Ince about where they hunt and fish in the region and everything seemed too good to pass up.
“I talked to the Paulsen brothers about it and the coaches, too,” Ince said. “They told me about the surrounding area and how players have managed to use their time. The three schools I chose, they all had availability and access to the outdoors. Minnesota was close enough to home where I could navigate through that. There are plenty of places you can go in Iowa. A lot of connections you can make. People are willing to let you use their land.”
Ince committed last summer and signed with the Hawkeyes in December. He’s an athletic prospect with a frame that can handle more weight. Ince is slated for tackle but could shift to another line position or even across the line of scrimmage if necessary. His willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win fits the Hawkeyes’ mindset.
“Fortunately for us, Cody is a small-town guy,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I was in the weight room when they walked in — mom, dad, sister. I think that was in June, maybe July. They walked in there. Things seemed to mesh pretty good.”
“He’s a hard-nosed player,” Unity coach Cory Nelson said. “You might see him hobble around but he won’t let you take him off the field. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s not a real emotional verbal kid, but you can tell when he gets going. He’s got a high motor. He’s a hard-working kid who’s solid.”
Ince also combines patience with quick-thinking skills, which helped him bag a bear on a one-in-a-lifetime hunting trip.
On this late fall day, Ince and his father walked along an old logging trail. Ince carried a 30.06 rifle. They heard the hounds way off and knew a bear was possible on this day.
“My family has been hunting bear for as long as I can remember it,” Cody Ince said. “My dad grew up doing it. I happened to get a tag this year. You get a tag once every seven or eight years so it doesn’t happen all the time, I guess. You don’t always get a bear, either.”
“We hunt with hounds, which my dad brought me up hunting with hounds,” Marty Ince said. “We had a bear going, the dogs had it caught. You’ve got to be very cautious when you approach such a situation. We were both a little bit nervous about it. We’re walking down this logging trail and we could hear the hounds and when you hunt them, you go toward the hounds. We kept going closer and all the sudden we heard a twig snap, which was quite a ways away from the hounds, which was unusual.”
Like all hunters in that situation, the Inces’ senses became heightened.
“We were in a clear cut that was growing for 4-5 years,” Cody Ince said. “The underbrush was pretty thick. He was coming through the brush. He didn’t really know that we were there, and we didn’t know he was coming, either. So it was kind of a surprise for both of us.”
“The next thing we know, there was the bear right at our feet,” Marty Ince said.
Cody quickly fired one round from his rifle, which killed the 300-pound bear.
“We looked at each other like, ‘Holy cats, what just happened?'” Marty Ince said. “That was a hunt of a lifetime for a father-son type deal.”
“We happened to find a pretty nice bear,” Cody Ince said. “He happened to step out of a logging trail, and I was able to harvest him, which was pretty cool. My dad was right behind me so he got to share the experience with me.”
Within 90 minutes of the kill, the Inces had the bear meat in a cooler. They let the meat hang overnight and then started repackaging it the next day into roasts, steaks and summer sausage. The family then shared it with other hunters in their group.
“This one by chance tasted really well,” Marty Ince said. “I’ve had bear where, ‘Ooh boy, this one doesn’t taste so good.’ It’s a redder meat. It’s a combination of pork and beef put together.”
“My bear was really healthy,” Cody said. “He was 300 pounds, we got quite a bit of meat off it and it’s been tasting pretty good so far.”
The rest of the bear is at the taxidermist, then it will post on a wall at the family home. Both of his legs will come out of the wall along with his claws. The bear’s mouth will be open with his teeth showing.
The outdoors is an Ince family tradition. Cody participates on an ice fishing team through the Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association, and the family has a heated shanty. Several of Marty’s family members live around the Balsam Lake area, including his parents and multiple siblings. The region has developed a family nickname because of it.
“My dad has four brothers, they all hunt and fish,” Cody Ince said. “We call it Inceville at our place because we live probably a quarter-mile from my uncle, a hundred yards from my grandparents, quarter-mile from my cousins and my uncle used to live right next to us. We’re all pretty close there. My other uncle lives up by our cabin.”
They are a tight-knit family. Cody’s mother, Tammy, works as a secretary at the high school. His older sister, Carly, is applying to post-college graduate programs and hopes to land one in the state of Iowa.
If there’s one concern about Cody at Iowa, it’s homesickness. The Iowa City campus is about six hours from Balsam Lake.
“Everybody plans on taking turns and going down there and hang out with him,” Marty Ince said. “Everybody in the neighborhood wants to come down and hang out with him.”
Like any parent who sends his son or daughter to college, Marty Ince hopes Cody quickly develops relationships on campus to establish a comfort level. Cody and other future Hawkeyes interact on a group chat to strengthen their bond before they all experience Iowa’s summer boot camp.
Football also will help. Unity has reached Level 3 of Wisconsin’s playoffs just three times in school history. Ince was the key cog in two of those squads as a four-year starter.
“We built our offense and our defense around him,” Nelson said. “We went to a 3-4 because we knew he could handle the middle in the defense. On offense, we ran the ball to the right side of the line a lot. That’s our power side with him on there.”
Ince is the first Division I football player Unity has produced, so there’s a community pride with him. He led the Eagles in tackles as a nose tackle and was respected by coaches and teammates. Whenever Nelson had a problem, he went to Ince, who straightened it out.
Off the field, Ince ranks sixth in his class with a 3.92 GPA. He’s smart, tough, hard-working and athletic. That’s about everything Iowa wants in a football player. The Hawkeyes also can build him up.
“Like [offensive line coach Tim] Polasek said, he has such a high ceiling,” Nelson said. “If you look at Cody, he has no facial hair. The kid still has growing to do. There’s huge upside to him.”