IOWA CITY — Jared DeVries struggled through countless injuries during his 12-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions.
He played through torn shoulders and dealt with 13 surgeries as a defensive lineman. But each time he fought his way back to the lineup, based in part because of his upbringing. Friday, DeVries said he acquired that determination and work ethic on his family farm outside of Aplington, Iowa.
DeVries, who retired from the NFL two years ago, became the second honoree of Kinnick Stadium’s ANF (America Needs Farmers) Wall of Honor. He was humbled by the selection, partly because he followed his best friend and business partner Casey Wiegmann, who was the inaugural recipient last year. Both names are displayed on a plaque located outside the northwest corner of Kinnick Stadium.
The ANF Wall of Honor salutes former Iowa football players who exemplify the tenacity, work ethic and character of the Iowa farmer.
“Farming is a passion for myself,” DeVries said Friday morning. “I told my dad, I think my junior year at Iowa here, I said if I don’t make it to the next level, I really want to come back here and farm because that was my second passion to football.
“I can remember Saturdays growing up on the farm, special time for me. There were four boys in the family and I seemed to enjoy it more than the others.”
DeVries lives near Clear Lake with his wife and two sons. He and Wiegmann co-own and operate Pigskin Farms, a corporation with 1,200 acres of cropland and other business interests. Wiegmann, a Parkersburg native who also is retired from the NFL, lives in Kansas but the two remain close ever since their days as Iowa teammates.
The two got together this week to harvest their corn, and they got to once again experience the highs and lows of farming firsthard.
“I take over for the guy who does the custom work for us, and he’s allowing me to run the combine,” DeVries said. “Here I am and Casey pulls up and those two are catching up. I look back and those two are like, ‘Whoa, whoa.’ Well, the back rear tire fell off.”
DeVries then bought a new tire and started to harvest the corn.
“Got going again, going to take out a bunch of new corn. I’m excited about that and the drive shaft went out on the semi,” DeVries said. “Perfect. ‘Well, no problem. We’ll start over again tomorrow, and unload these semis early.’ Well it snowed Tuesday.”
DeVries was a consensus All-American defensive lineman at Iowa and was a third-round draft pick by the Lions in 1999. He earned the 2004 Ed Block Courage Award, the 2007 Mike Utley Spirit Award and the 2008 Joe Schmidt Leadership Award in Detroit. He started 10 games in both 2007 and 2008 and his 120 games rank among the top 20 in Lions history. He had 6.5 sacks in 2007.
Injuries took their toll in 2009 and 2010. Each year he fought to return but eventually was forced to retire in 2011.
DeVries recalled with laughter to some of his moments with former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry. He became emotional when he was asked about former high school coach Ed Thomas, who was murdered in 2009. He thanked both of them, as well as his family, for helping him develop the determination to become an NFL player.
“My work ethic that my parents instilled and Coach Thomas reinforced, I just kept my nose to the grindstone,” DeVries said. “What is that? That’s the Iowa farmer, that’s what Iowa people stand for. You keep working, you keep working, you keep working. I just took it off the farm and put it into a football setting.”