Klemp signs with Iowa, fulfills promise to late grandfather

Jerry Klemp was looking down and smiling

South Hamilton senior Logan Klemp made it official on Wednesday when he signed his letter of intent to play football at Iowa. He was surrounded by his family members, parents Amy and Corey, and sister Avery Klemp. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Jerry Klemp had to be doing the hokey pokey in heaven as he smiled down Wednesday morning.

You see, Jerry loved a lot of things, his family first and foremost, and, oh, how he adored his grandkids. He also loved the Iowa Hawkeyes, from the lean years of the 1970s through the golden era when Hayden Fry brought his swashbuckling charisma to Iowa City and turned the program into a power.

Jerry was just a stone’s throw from Kinnick Stadium on Jan. 8, 2005, when he succumbed to leukemia after a long and hard fight at the age of 62 at the University of Iowa Hospitals. But not before his grandson Logan Klemp, just a

kindergartner at the time, told him that, someday, he was going to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Logan took a giant, official step towards fulfilling that promise yesterday morning.

With his immediate family by his side and a throng of South Hamilton students and faculty members looking on, Logan signed his letter of intent to play football at Iowa. It’s been his dream, one that began sitting on his grandfather’s hospital bed all those years ago.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It feels amazing, a dream come true,” Logan said after he signed on the dotted line and received heaps of hugs and handshakes from well-wishers. “It’s the culmination of a long, long time coming.”

The public display was not Logan’s scene. He would have been happy to do the paperwork as he slurped down a bowl of Cheerios from his kitchen table. But there he was grinning and laughing.

There weren’t any tears. Those would have been supplied by grandpa.

“He was a tough guy, but he would have truly been in tears,” Corey Klemp, Logan’s dad and Jerry’s son, said. “Just seeing that work ethic that Logan has, the things that allowed him to get here is what my dad would be proud of.”

Jerry battled his disease for a long time, taking his chemotherapy treatments during lunch breaks so he wouldn’t miss a minute of work. It wasn’t until he entered the U of I in the fall of 2004 for a bone marrow transplant that he finally took time off. He was given the choice of having the transplant, which doctors hoped would add years to his life, or continuing with standard care that in all likelihood wouldn’t have saved his life.

South Hamilton senior linebacker Logan Klemp signs his national letter of intent to play football at Iowa. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Jerry took the chance, one that, in the end, didn’t pay off. Why? He was thinking of his family.

“His goals were to see one of his granddaughters get married and to watch Logan play a varsity football game,” Corey said. “So it was worth that chance.”

Logan was indoctrinated to Iowa football during his visits to his grandpa’s hospital room. On Saturdays, he and Corey would run over to the north parking ramp and take in the games from high above.

From the parking ramp to a scholarship player. Not bad at all.

“We’d sit up there and he’d be captivated,” Corey said of his son. “He’d go back and sit on his grandpa’s bed and tell him that he was going to play for the Hawkeyes. At the time it was like oh, that’s cute, but as he got older you could tell he was kind of serious about that.”

Hawks’ assistant football coach Kyle Galetich congratulates Logan Klemp on his big day. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Jerry never got to see Logan play or Corey coach football, but he’s been with them in spirit for every game. Corey, South Hamilton’s head coach, wears his dad’s ruby ring every time he steps on the sideline. Logan keeps his grandpa’s memory alive by wearing one of Jerry’s old shirts underneath his uniform. It’s ragged now and barely resembles clothing, but it’s a tradition he’s never been able to part with.

Logan’s on-field demeanor resembles Jerry’s tough exterior, too. Watch his Hudl video; he plays like Charles Jefferson in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, a menacing man among mere boys. He’s like so many gifted, small town football players. All he wanted was to get his foot in the door; he’ll let his work and dedication do the rest.

“I’m super excited to get there and be the competitor that I am and see where it goes from there,” Logan said. “I can’t wait to represent South Hamilton on a big stage like that.”

If you know Logan Klemp, then you know not to doubt him. He’s not Iowa’s most prized recruit, but neither was Bob Sanders, or Robert Gallery, or Dallas Clark, or Josey Jewell, or Webster City native Boone Myers, or … you get the picture.

He’s just a kid with a dream, one that he shared with his grandpa all those years ago.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

You better believe Jerry would be proud.