IOWA CITY, IA (WTVO/WQRF) — The leap from small-town high school football to Big Ten football is a large one, but two of our local small-town guys are now playing key roles in the Big Ten for the Iowa Hawkeyes, both on the offensive line. Gennings Dunker of Lena and Tyler Elsbury of Byron.

I caught up with both of them this past Saturday at the Iowa-Western Michigan game. I begin my two-part look on our 815 Hawkeyes tonight with Elsbury.

There are few entrances in college football as electric as the Iowa Hawkeyes.

“It’s unique you know,” said Elsbury. “You don’t really hear anything until you start walking out of the locker room. We have a long hallway that we come down to.”

AC/DC’s “Back In Black” blares through Kinnick Stadium while the team is shown on the video board.

“You start to hear fans pound on the pads, and you just get goose bumps every time,” said Elsbury.

Then the swarm is on, and the Hawkeyes take the field.

“Definitely not the size of crowd of Byron, but you feel the same type of love.”

At Byron, Elsbury was a first team All-State lineman helping the Tigers to runner-up state finishes his junior and senior years. Now, he’s a redshirt junior for the Hawkeyes wearing number 76 and seeing time at both guard spots as a backup. He got in late in the game last Saturday against Western Michigan helping the Hawkeyes put their last touchdown on the board in a 41-10 win.

“I’d like to play the whole game, but that just gives me motivation because obviously I’ve got to get better at some things fundamentally whether it be that or mentally, schematically, playbook-wise, so it’s not hard to keep pushing,” said Elsbury.

Elsbury’s versatility on the line makes him valuable to the Hawkeyes.

“I played right guard week one. I played left guard today (Saturday vs. W. Michigan). I played some center last year, a little bit of tackle the year before that. The coaches tell me to play somewhere, and I just kind of do it. That’s my opportunity to go play.”

How does Elsbury describe how big of a leap it is going from Big Northern Conference high school football to Big Ten football?

“Football is football, but it’s definitely a lot more competitive. Guys are recruited from all over the country, you know, same skill set, same mentality coming in here wanting to play.”

The Hawkeyes have started this season 3-0 including a win over rival Iowa State. The Hawkeyes are ranked 24th in the country this week in the AP poll.

Next up for Elsbury and the Hawkeyes, a game at Penn State this coming Saturday night. The Nittany Lions are ranked seventh in the nation, and Beaver Stadium holds over 106,000 people. Many folks say that’s the toughest stadium in American to play in. Elsbury has experienced it once before, but not like he’s going to experience it this weekend.”

“The last time I played there actually was COVID, so there were no fans in the stands, so this will definitely be different. It’s a night game. I think it’s their white-out. They’re really loud. That’s kind of what they’re known for. It will definitely be exciting to experience that with the fans in there.”

NOTE: Wednesday I’ll bring you my story on our other 815 Hawkeye Lena-Winslow’s Gennings Dunker.