Northwest Iowa NFL legends highlight FCA banquet

December 4, 2018

Custodian Dave Harry opens a case that contains four National Football League uniforms sported by Hawarden, Iowa, native Brian Hansen during his 15-year pro football career. The jerseys are from his days with the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and New York Jets. The case is in a corridor near the gym at West Sioux High School, where Hansen played football during his prep days.(Journal photo by Tim Gallagher / Find more photos and buy copies at siouxcityjournal.com)

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa -- Four National Football League veterans, Northwest Iowa native sons all, came together on Sunday evening to share how faith helped shape their lives during and after football in highlighting the Northwest Iowa Fellowship of Christian Athletes Legacy Banquet.

Vern Den Herder, Adam Timmerman, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Brian Hansen shared anecdotes, laughter and testimony for an hour before 500 who gathered at the Terrace View Event Center on Sioux Center’s southern edge. This signature event helped boost efforts by Timmerman and Cherokee’s Bruce Dagel in re-establishing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization in Northwest Iowa, a group that serves 17 area counties, 58 high schools and five colleges.

“We had 13 groups called ‘Huddles’ established by June of this year,” said Timmerman, of Cherokee, Iowa, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams. “Without doing a whole lot to seek new ‘Huddles,’ we’ve grown to have 23 ‘Huddles’ and six ‘Coach’s Huddles.’”

Dagel said the upstart group has handed out more than 200 FCA Bibles this years and has engaged more than 200 coaches and 500 student-athletes in its attempt to equip and empower people to make a difference for Christ. The FCA mission is to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church.

Bruce Held, who has co-coached football with Steve Diediker at Hinton High School for 36 years, talked about having three student-athletes show up at times through the years for an FCA gathering at Hinton. Recently, he noted, more than 30 young Hinton Blackhawks have attended those FCA get-togethers. The belief, said Held, is that if one person knows and follows Christ, he/she will impact their team; and if one team knows and follows Christ, that team will impact the school. And on and on and on.

“The game-day prayers Bruce Dagel sends by text are what I need to hear,” Held said, disclosing how wins and losses are not the barometer to measure a successful coach. “It’s the kids and the relationships we build that are the most important.” Held concluded he had such a coach as a collegian in Northwestern College’s Larry Korver.

Den Herder, Hansen, Vanden Bosch and Timmerman all mentioned coaches and mentors who helped steer them in the right direction during their playing days. Timmerman, who said he was “dragged to church” by his parents during his formative years, began to live more purposefully as a rookie with the Packers, funneled in that direction through a Bible study session organized by veteran players and coaches.

Den Herder, a two-time Super Bowl champion defensive lineman with the Miami Dolphins, asked Dagel to display a picture of the famed “No-Name Defense” that helped lead the Dolphins to an undefeated season in 1972, the league’s lone perfect ledger. The team reminded Den Herder of a Biblical passage, one found in Corinthians.

“The passage talks about being a part of God’s body and that no one part is more important than any other,” Den Herder said. “In my life, I might not be a Billy Graham, but I am a believer and a part of Christ’s body.”

Sioux Center’s Den Herder, who, like Timmerman, farms, said he still must work each day in turning over his self-reliance in items like decision-making to God.

Hansen, a Hawarden native who punted for 15 years in the NFL, has worked with FCA for decades following his retirement from football. “I wanted to serve Him and that door opened,” said Hansen, who quoted Ephesians: “I prayed to the Lord to equip me and he has continued to show me through this ministry.”

Hansen lauded a college coach, Bob Young, at Sioux Falls College, who demonstrated how coaching can work as a ministry as those charged with motivating young people and teaching the game also teach about life. “He (Young) was intentional about speaking truth into our lives,” Hansen said. “It was a wake-up call for me.”

Kyle Vanden Bosch, a former West Lyon Wildcat and Nebraska Cornhusker, grew quiet while talking about his wake-up call as he struggled to cope with the pain of divorce. At the time, Vanden Bosch, an NFL All-Pro, worked as a player mentor, a player representative and a captain. Despite being at the peak of his professional success, Vanden Bosch admitted to being alone in finding his path.

In reality, he wasn’t alone. After a pause, Vanden Bosch cited the famous “Footprints” poem in detailing how he came to learn that God carried him, ultimately leading him to a beautiful wife, a beautiful family and to his most important role now, that of father to his children, instilling in them the values they need for a full life.

“God will carry you through, put your trust in Him,” he said.

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