IOWA CITY — Casey Wiegmann grew up in Parkersburg when the farming crisis of the mid-1980s hit his home.
His father, Galen, toiled for decades at the local John Deere. Galen was laid off for more than two years and the family moved to Wichita, Kan., where Casey started high school before returning back to Iowa.
"He got re-hired by John Deere and couldn't resist coming back to the state of Iowa," Casey Wiegmann said. "That's kind of where everything took off for me."
Wiegmann, 39, never lived on a farm. But residing in an Iowa farming community, he understood its impact. According to a plaque in the northwest corner of Kinnick Stadium — now known as ANF (America Needs Farmers) Plaza — Wiegmann also embodies everything that represents an Iowa farmer.
Wiegmann is the first inductee on the ANF Wall of Honor, which will be awarded annually to a former Iowa player "who exemplifies the tenacity, work ethic and character of the Iowa farmer, qualities that have helped Iowa remain the leading agricultural state in the nation."
"I'm not very good at accepting awards," Wiegmann said Friday. "It's not in my nature. It's kind of the offensive line way we do things. It's a pretty special deal."
Wiegmann started for three seasons at Iowa but went undrafted and signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 1996. He moved through three different teams before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. That's where he began an incredible run of durability not seen in NFL history.
Wiegmann started 175 consecutive games — 200 overall — in 16 NFL seasons. But even more impressively, he played 11,162 consecutive snaps, the longest streak by an offensive lineman. In fact, he nearly left the field late in one game two years ago when former Chiefs guard Brian Waters argued to keep Wiegmann on the field.
"It was late in the game and the offensive line coach said, 'I'm going to take you out and we're going to put another guy in,'" Wiegmann said. "'You don't need to be in.' I would have come out just because I need to listen to the coach and do what's right. But Brian Waters stepped up and said, 'You're not taking him out of the game.' Of course I didn't come out, but it was pretty neat to have a fellow offensive linemate step up and knew the impact that it had on me."
Wiegmann is unofficially retired and lives in Shawnee, Kan. He's married to 2005 Survivor: Guatemala winner Danni Boatwright. They have two sons: 5-year-old Bo and 1-year-old Stone. Wiegmann, who has yet to sign his retirement papers, nearly returned to the Chiefs earlier this year but prefers to remain out of the game, at least right now.
Wiegmann credits his former high school coach, Ed Thomas, for instilling his work ethic. In high Wiegmann nearly quit working at a lumberyard and Thomas told him, "You can't quit. If you quit on this one thing, you're going to quit on a lot of other things in life."
"He always said the right things and led me in the right direction," Wiegmann said.
Wiegmann and his best friend, former Iowa teammate and longtime Detroit Lions defensive tackle Jared DeVries, own 1,250 acres of farm land near Clear Lake and Aplington. He hopes to get more involved in farming as his sons grow older.
The perseverance Wiegmann showed in his Iowa and NFL career makes him the perfect inaugural ANF inductee, Iowa Farm Bureau executive director Denny Presnall said.
"When you talk about work ethic and character, and what it means to be an Iowan, Casey Wiegmann is your choice any day of the week," Presnall said.
"It's not as important to have a farmer sitting up here today. Casey's not on the farm. But he understands the work ethic, the kind of things it takes, the drive that you've got to have and the dedication that you have to have every day to make something work. That's the farm attitude, that's the attitude Casey displays."