ROCK VALLEY, Iowa — Nobody could’ve seen this season coming for Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley quarterback Tanner Te Slaa before training camp began.
Not even Te Slaa.
After a successful sophomore season in 2019, where he started the final five games for BH/RV and threw for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns, Te Slaa decided to hang up his football cleats in order to focus on his burgeoning basketball career.
Te Slaa excelled on the court, leading Boyden-Hull to a 2019 state title and eventually signed on to play basketball at South Dakota State University.
But as this year’s football season approached, Te Slaa realized that he missed the camaraderie and fun he had with his teammates on the gridiron. In his words: “I just missed the boys.”
Te Slaa led the Nighthawks to a 12-1 record and an appearance in the Class 3A state game in his comeback season, with 34 passing touchdowns and 2,532 passing yards, good for second and third-most in Class 3A, respectively.
For a kid that didn’t even pick up a football at all last season, he didn’t miss a single beat.
“He’s a team guy, and he does whatever he has to for the team,” BH/RV coach Cory Brandt said. “I’m impressed with his level of skill and how far that has come this season. Right now, he is throwing the ball at a really high level, and I’ve been incredibly impressed with him, and how he has done that.”
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For his impressive return season, Te Slaa has been selected as the Journal’s Football Player of the Year.
When he first came back, it was evident that Te Slaa hadn’t thrown a football in a while. There were a few mechanical issues that he had to work out, but with the guidance of Brandt and Nighthawks’ quarterback coach Jayme Rozeboom, Te Slaa made the adjustments he needed for a breakout year.
In the latter part of 2021, he didn’t seem to need any help at all.
“Now, he’s able to correct himself half the time, which is really impressive,” Brandt said. “If he’s not throwing it perfectly or whatever, he goes ‘I need to do this’, and you can see him going through what he has been coached up to do.”
Te Slaa brought his game to a whole new level in the postseason. In the Nighthawks’ 49-7 first round win over Sioux Center, Te Slaa went 8-for-12 passing for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
In the Nov. 5 quarterfinals against Sergeant Bluff-Luton, he threw for 278 yards and five touchdowns, as the Nighthawks’ thumped the Warriors, 50-14.
But Te Slaa saved his best game yet for the state semifinals against undefeated Solon, throwing for 336 yards and four touchdowns to lead BH/RV to a 42-0 victory.
Te Slaa finished his high school football career with two touchdowns and 268 passing yards in the Class 3A title game against Harlan, which the Nighthawks lost to the Cyclones, 42-28.
While the Nighthawks wound up short of their state title dreams, Te Slaa is still glad he came out for football this season.
“It was really special,” Te Slaa said. “Shoutout to our guys out there, and our coaches. They made everything easy for us, and they put us in the right spots, and then I had my guys go make plays for me. Really, all thanks goes to them and to be here today, that’s where we wanted to be.”
Last season, BH/RV wide receiver Caleb Kats was the Nighthawks’ quarterback. He spent all summer getting ready to take the job again this year, but Kats made the move to wide receiver upon Te Slaa’s return.
Kats admits that it was difficult at first to make the switch because of all the hard work he put in at quarterback, but with Te Slaa under center, the move back to receiver felt natural.
To him, Te Slaa was an obvious choice for Football Player of the Year.
“Oh for sure,” Kats said. “He is a stud. I love that he is throwing to me, for sure.”
According to Te Slaa, his football career is done. He’s now going to focus on basketball, with no plans to put the pads on again in college.
Te Slaa could surely succeed at the next level, but his heart lies on the court. For those watching Te Slaa from the stands, the 2021 football season will have to be enough, a future treasured memory of a talented athlete at the top of his game.
If you were impressed by Te Slaa’s skills on the football field, his skills on the basketball court might impress you even more.
He scored 581 points for the Comets in 2020, good for fourth in the state regardless of class.
While the hardwood is where his future is, Te Slaa’s time on the gridiron gave Northwest Iowa fans plenty of special memories that will be talked about for years to come.
“I’m happy as heck for him,” Brandt said. “He’s a heck of a football player and I think he’d be a good college quarterback, no doubt. But he’s excited with what he’s doing, he loves basketball. That’s his first love and it always has been.”
“I’m happy as heck for him, and he’s got a great place that he’s going to. He’ll do a great job.”