ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Our small communities in the Rockford area have produced some great football talent, like two guys who are now playing on the offensive line for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten. One is Byron’s Tyler Elsbury, the other is Lena-Winslow’s Gennings Dunker.

Last night in my two-part look at our 815 Hawkeyes I caught up with Elsbury. Tonight, I catch up with Dunker.

Dunker is part of the Lena-Winslow Panthers’ state championship legacy. His freshman and junior years they were state champions. His senior year, the COVID year there were no playoffs. He sat out that spring season with a foot injury.

Now on Saturday’s you can find Dunker wearing number 67 and lining up as the Iowa Hawkeyes’ starting right offensive tackle, all 6-5, 320 pounds of him. He’s a sophomore.

Dunker has played some guard for the Hawkeyes in the past, so is right tackle his home for good now on the line?

I’ll do whatever the head man wants me to do,” said Dunker. If he wants me to stay there I’m cool with it. If he wants me to go play center, I’m cool with it. I don’t think he will, but I’ll do whatever he wants me to do.”

Dunker is one of the keys to trying to help the Hawkeyes’ offense step up this season after the Hawkeyes struggled offensively last year. He’s opening holes for the running backs and providing pass protection for Cade McNamara.

The Hawkeyes are 3-0 so far this season after going 8-5 last season.

The population of Lena is 2,700. You could put 25 and a half Lena’s in Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium which holds over 69,000 people. Quite a difference there, but either way it’s still football and Dunker loves it. Has he gotten used to the huge crowds?

“Not really. You know, I mean, I graduated like 50 kids in my class, so it’s still, it’s wild every time. Every time out it’s sick. Yea, it’s awesome!”

This Saturday night Dunker and the Hawkeyes will play in front of 106,000 fans against 7th-ranked Penn State at Beaver Stadium, and the game will be on national TV. Not bad for a kid from little Lena.

“It’s going to be awesome! It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to it.”

Despite starting on Iowa’s offensive line, Dunker might be better known in Hawkeye land for being the two-time Hay Bale toss champion at Solon Beef Days just outside of Iowa City. This past summer, he set a new record throwing a bale over a bar 14 feet 6 inches high.

Does it blow his mind how people get so caught up in that competition?

“I grew up baling hay. I’d go bale hay in high school and stuff. Now most people don’t bale hay, so they think it’s kind of crazy which is hilarious. I mean, I love it.”

Dunker doesn’t hesitate to commit to going after a three-peat next year.

“I’m going to have to yea. I’m going to have to fine-tune my technique a little bit and watch some film on my hay bale throwing and see what I can improve and take a whack at it.”