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College football: UNI adds five more to 2020 class

College football: UNI adds five more to 2020 class

From the Collection of spring UNI football stories series

CEDAR FALLS – The search for great football players will never end for the University of Northern Iowa football team.

Yet, Wednesday Mark Farley and his staff put the finishing touches on its 2020 recruiting class by adding five players to the 13 the Panthers signed in December.

UNI released the names of four of the players Wednesday with the fifth, a defensive back from the Kansas City area whose paper work is in, but his signing ceremony was delayed a day because school was cancelled for Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade.

“He wants to have the excitement of announcing in front of friends and family,” Farley said.

In addition to the defensive back, UNI added junior college wide receiver Kenden Robinson Jr from San Francisco City College, quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden of Topeka, Kan., center Gunnar Kilen of Verona, Wis., and quarterback-punter Cael Loecher of Cedar Falls.

“Quarterback was essential as we have only three on campus right now,” Farley said. “We needed somebody in the freshman class to be a quarterback.

“It was great timing with Da’Vonshai who is a great athlete who can move, throw and will be a compliment to the quarterback room we already have.”

The Panthers return starter Will McElvain and redshirt freshmen Justin Fomby, UNI’s 2019 Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, and Nate Martens.

Harden was originally committed to Les Miles and the Kansas Jayhawks, much like December signee, running back Jaylin Richardson of Kansas City, Kan. He ran and passed for 2,299 yards while leading Topeka to the Class 6A semifinals.

Loecher brings that quarterback group to five as well as another person to challenge Zac Kibby and Nate Murphy for the starting punter position.

While averaging 40.6 yards per punt over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Loecher also passed for 4,006 yards and 51 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to a 22-2 mark as a starting quarterback.

“Cael is a gem,” Farley said. “His best football is ahead of him. He is a great athlete. I’ve watched him growing up and is going to be able to compete for that starting punting position and able to do that in his first season.”

With the graduation of two of UNI’s top three pass catching targets – Jaylin James and Aaron Graham – Farley said Robinson will add depth to a young group that features 1,000-yard receiver Isaiah Weston.

This past season at City College of San Francisco, where Panther offensive line coach Ryan Clanton played, Robinson had 50 catches for 746 yards and nine scores. Three of his final four games saw him go over 100 yards receiving, including a 10-catch, 102-yard game in CCSF’s Golden State Bowl win over Shasta CC.

“We needed depth at receiver and he provides that,” Farley said.

Kilen was originally linked to Colorado State, but the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Verona, Wis native has a huge frame.

“What I like about him is he is a center,” Farley said. “We usually take guards and tackles and turn them into centers. He’s got a big frame and can move. Center is hard to pay and he has been effective playing it and has the size to compliment what we do here so we are pleased to have Gunnar.”

Farley added UNI is not done officially looking for new Panthers for the 2020 season saying he and his staff will continue to monitor the transfer portal.

“It’s got to fit a need. We will be selective and it has to be the right player at the right time,” Farleys said. “We definitely still looking for a running back.”

UNI opens spring practice on March 23 and will conclude its 15-date spring practice with either or a spring game or controlled scrimmage on April 24 inside the UNI-Dome.

Metro athletes who signed letters of intent Wednesday:

Cedar Falls

  • Collin Bohnenkamp, Truman State, football
  • Cael Loecher, Northern Iowa, football
  • Leah Dierks, Hawkeye C.C., Dance
  • Riley Fieshner, Wisconsin-Parkside, Soccer
  • Jada Golden-Smith, Kirkwood CC, Volleyball
  • Jaxon Heth, Brair Cliff, Basketball
  • Krisha Keeran, Case Western University, Tennis
  • Nicole Motzko, Wartburg, Soccer
  • Joshua Ollendieck, Truman State, Basketball
  • Jacob Remmert, South Dakota, Football
  • Annika Strohm, Missorui S&T, Soccer
  • Anna Taft, Hawkeye C.C., Track and field
  • Kyle Trunnell, Northern Iowa, Track and field


  • Ben Sinnott, Kansas State, football
  • Cannon Butler, Northern Iowa, football
  • Caleb Vesely, Minnesota State-Mankato, football
  • Kobe Nobis, Loras, Football
  • Emily Surma, Loras, soccer
  • Maddie Burr, Buena Vista, soccer
  • John Rausch, Central, baseball
  • Bailey Sinnwell, Wartburg, Tennis

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Sports Reporter

I’m a Waterloo native who has covered Cedar Valley sports for more than 30 years for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. I’m also a big Cincinnati Reds fan … Go Big Red Machine!

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