Growing up in Iowa and receiving a scholarship offer from the Hawkeyes usually proves emotional. It carried extra meeting for New Hampton lineman Noah Fenske when he picked one up at Saturday’s junior day.
Since he was in eighth grade, Fenske has lived his life for two people. It was then that his older sister, Sam Vinning, committed suicide when she was 21.
At first, Noah lost his way. He was hanging out with the wrong people and letting his school work slip. He struggled finding solace without his sibling.
Then, he found football was his salvation. He poured his heart and mind into the sport, Sam never far from his mind. He writes her name on his cleats and wrist tape each game.
When the Hawkeye opportunity came on Saturday, it was a revelation. Sam was a hardcore Iowa fan.
“It was so surreal,” Noah said. “It’s something that I dreamed about since I was about three years old. Just getting that offer was kind of cool because it just seems to make things right, if that makes sense.”
Fenske (6-5, 275) camped at Iowa after his freshman and sophomore seasons. He returned for a game day visit this past fall. Still, he said Saturday’s offer was unexpected.
The Hawkeyes view Fenske as an interior offensive linemen. He plays offensive tackle and defensive end for New Hampton. He also participates in basketball and track, which highlights his athleticism.
“(The Iowa coaches) said that I played hard and they said that I work hard and that I fit the Iowa culture,” Fenske said.
Fenske was promoted to varsity for a playoff game his freshman season. The next year he noticed he might have some potential in football. Last summer, he enjoyed a strong camp season. Things then came together in the fall.
South Dakota State and North Dakota offered scholarships. He visited Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota. He recently attended a junior day at Northern Iowa.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m great yet. I would say that I have a lot to work on before I can be great,” he said.
Josh Fenske, a linebacker in the 2018 class, originally committed to Southern Illinois last summer. He switched his pledge to South Dakota State. He signed with the Jackrabbits.
Fenske isn’t sure how he’ll navigate the recruiting process. He’s trying to catch up with the increased attention after a slow start.
“I want to commit somewhat sooner rather than later just so I can get it out of the way and concentrate on the rest of my high school sports. But I don’t want to make too rash a decision. I don’t think that’s good for me or the program,” he said.
Iowa State and North Dakota State will play host to Fenske on upcoming visits. He also plans to stop at North Dakota.
There’s a good chance he could run into fellow in-state junior recruit and Hawkeye offered-athlete, Mosai Newsom from Waverly-Shell Rock High. They know each other from competing throughout the years and now as members of the Northeast Iowa Conference.
Fenske’s parents couldn’t make it to Iowa on Saturday. Noah contacted Newsom and asked for transportation assistance.
“The recruiting process has been a lot of fun. We just seem to end up at the same places. The family is extremely generous. His family gave me a ride down there and we hung out. It was a good time,” Fenske said.
Fenske said he wants to be a history teacher someday. He certainly has experienced enough of it in his young life. The loss of Sam hasn’t been easy on his family.
“At first I was headed down the wrong path. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have. But I turned my life around. Football has been an incredible way where she can live through me,” Noah said.