CEDAR FALLS — When Kevin Vereen came to Northern Iowa, he had no experience at wide receiver.
Vereen broke the Waynesville (Mo.) High School record for rushing yards by a quarterback, but never caught a pass.
“My senior year, I played a little bit of wildcat, so it wasn’t too bad of a transition,” Vereen said. “(The UNI coaching staff) liked that I could read defenses pretty well, so they put me at receiver.”
Vereen, who thinks his basketball past also has helped him with the position switch, leads the Panthers with 371 receiving yards.
“I played guard but rebounded like a post player,” he said. “I think I still hold the high school rebounding record.
“I always go for the football now with two hands. When I go deep, I feel out the defender and try to go for the ball at the highest point of attack.”
Vereen had originally committed to Kansas State to play quarterback, but after KSU fired its coaching staff, he switched to UNI. He got a nudge from former UNI and NFL linebacker L.J. Fort.
Vereen and Fort were teammates at Waynesville High School.
“He really stayed in my ear,” Vereen said. “L.J. was a phenomenal player in high school and got recruited by some of the same schools that I did. When that recruiting process came down, he walked me through it and gave me the heads up about (UNI).”
The exercise science major now is in his fourth season as a Panther, but two seasons were spent as a red-shirt, including a medical red-shirt last season.
“You just have to stay positive and keep that edge,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be down and out, but I’m always trying to stay positive.”
The Panthers, coming off their first loss of the season, host Southern Illinois today.
“We just look at it as another game and another bump in the road that we have to get through and get better at,” Vereen said. “We just have to keep our foot on the pedal and just keep going like we have.”