CEDAR FALLS — For as long as Jordan Gayer can remember, he has dreamed of playing college football.
There was also a time the Waverly-Shell Rock senior thought those dreams may have vanished.
It turns out Gayer will get his opportunity. He is expected to be one of 10 or more players to sign with the University of Northern Iowa football program today during the second of two signing periods for FCS and FBS recruits.
The Panthers landed 11 players during the early signing period.
“It definitely is a big day. I’m excited,” said Gayer, who plans to sign his letter of intent at 2 p.m. today at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.
Gayer’s story really begins when he was a fifth-grader and a blood clot in his left leg caused blood flow to his foot to stop, requiring bypass surgery.
There were no issues for 12 years.
Then on Feb. 23 of last year, Gayer, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker and a three-sport standout for the Go-Hawks, found himself laid up at the Children’s Hospital in Iowa City when another clot developed.
While his Go-Hawks were advancing to the Class 3A state basketball tournament, Gayer was given blood thinners in hopes they would solve the problem. He missed a week of school and the entire state tournament run.
Then on May 17, Gayer had to have surgery to replace the artery after an aneurysm in the artery was determined to have caused the clot. He missed three more weeks of school.
Gayer was trepidatious after the surgery.
“Actually, I didn’t know if I was going to get to play my senior season of football, let alone college football,” Gayer admitted.
But nearly two months after the surgery, Gayer’s vascular surgeon cleared him to begin training for football.
“To hear that, it felt good,” said Gayer. “They say I’m good to go and there shouldn’t be any more problems in the future.”
However, Gayer lost valuable training time and wasn’t able to attend college camps that are huge exposure for potential recruits. But four games into W-SR’s 2017 season, in which he would be named the Class 3A, District 3 defensive player of the year, Gayer sent out film to numerous colleges.
Game day visits soon followed at Wartburg, Winona State, Northwest Missouri State, Iowa, Iowa State and South Dakota. Then things really started to get interesting in December when South Dakota State offered him a scholarship.
Gayer then visited UNI on Jan. 20-21 and on the 22nd he made a verbal commitment to the Panthers.
“Growing up in Waverly, I followed UNI and was always interested in playing there,” Gayer said. “I took the one official visit, they decided to give me an opportunity to play there and I took it.”
Gayer had 38 solo and 23 assisted tackles and 10 tackles for loss as an outside linebacker for the Go-Hawks while also catching six passes for 64 yards and three touchdowns offensively. He expects to play inside linebacker for UNI.
Of the 21 players who are expected to sign or have signed with UNI, it breaks down like this — defensive linemen (4), linebackers (3), defensive backs (1), athletes (3), tight ends (3), offensive linemen (3), wide receivers (1), quarterbacks (1) and running backs (1).
Four players are already on campus — Purdue transfer and Iowa native Jack Wegher (running back/wide receiver), defensive tackle Tim Butcher, offensive lineman Collin Lagarde and defensive back Roosevelt Lawrence.
Butcher, Lagarde and Lawrence all played at Iowa Central Community College.