IOWA CITY, Iowa — After 15 minutes chatting with Marshal Yanda about life as much as football, Noah Fenske thought of one thing.
“Everything I wanted was right there,” the New Hampton (Iowa) offensive lineman said. “I was so excited, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Meeting Yanda left a lasting impression with Fenske. It was the catalyst for his commitment to Iowa during his unofficial visit on March 2.
So, what exactly did Yanda say?
“It was one of those small-town conversations,” Fenske said. “It felt really normal.”
Also want to thank Marshall Yanda for taking the time to chat with me today! pic.twitter.com/vEVdomG1aZ
— Noah Fenske (@Big_Red_Fenske) March 3, 2018
Fenske is familiar with small-town talk. New Hampton, tucked in the northeast corner of Iowa, has about 3,400 residents.
Still, he didn’t expect to chat with Yanda, let alone commit when arriving at the football complex.
His parents couldn’t make the trip to campus for junior day on Feb. 17. They needed to see the complex, and the Class of 2019 3-star prospect wanted to visit again after feeling a strong connection with the staff and players on that February visit.
Fenske noticed Yanda on his way to meet with an academic adviser. It is hard to miss a 6-foot-3, 305-pound guard standing just feet from you.
He wasn’t standing there by accident. His tour guide informed Fenske he would chat with Yanda a little later.
“It was such a surprise,” Fenske said. “He is one of the best offensive linemen of all time.”
Fenske knows all about Yanda, the former Iowa offensive lineman turned two-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion for the Baltimore Ravens. Pro Football Focus routinely names him one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
Yanda is back at Iowa preparing for the NFL season after missing most of 2017 with a left ankle injury. He pulled Fenske into the training room and the two talked football, but also so much more. Yanda is another Iowan from a small town — he was raised in Anamosa, population 5,500 or so — about 100 miles southeast of Fenske’s hometown.
Commited 😈🐤💛🖤✅ pic.twitter.com/OptfAmJoIT
— Noah Fenske (@Big_Red_Fenske) March 2, 2018
Yanda asked Fenske about his family and goals. He spoke about his time at North Iowa Area Community College before joining the Hawkeyes. They discussed the key moments that shaped who they are and the importance of academics.
“He was willing to have a conversation like I’d known him for 15 years,” Fenske said. “It was such a cool experience.”
Yanda isn’t much bigger than the 6-5, 275-pound Fenske. He knew Fenske is a work in progress as a recruit, far from a finished product. But his talk with Yanda was the proof that he can get there.
Iowa helped develop Yanda and holds a reputation for churning out NFL-caliber talent, potentially including the current offensive linemen Fenske talked with during his visit.
While in the training room, ready to say goodbye to an NFL All-Pro, Fenske realized this was his introduction to his college home.
“He knows about their reputation with the offensive linemen, and he met a lot of them,” New Hampton football coach Scott Frerichs said. “It kind of drove home that notion.”
Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time. That time spent with Yanda was long enough, though, to convince Fenske to commit, to motivate him to double down on his training efforts and to lay out a path to future success.
“I took away if I want to play in the NFL, this is definitely the place to be,” Fenske said. “Then, secondly, if I want to be like this guy, I just have to work hard and train my tail off because he is just like any normal person.”