IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Thousands of fans across the state had a chance to see University of Iowa coaches up close and personal earlier this summer during the I-Club banquet tour. I-Club events give coaches and administrators a chance to say thank you to the fans for all their support during the season.
UI football offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten was also able to say thank you on the I-Club tour this summer, in a role that you might not expect.
Van Sloten served as a UI Foundation intern, attending and helping at numerous I-Club banquets across the state, along with spending many hours in the I-Club campus office. The Decorah, Iowa, native saw first-hand what it's like to be behind the scenes of the UI athletics fundraising efforts.
Those fundraising efforts are what allow student-athletes, like himself, the chance to participate at the Division I level on a full ride scholarship.
"Coming in as a freshman, you know you have a scholarship," Van Sloten said. "But you are a little naive because you don't know where that scholarship came from. It's the generosity from these loyal donors. Getting the chance to see them, meet them, and thank them, one-on-one this summer, was great."
The UI Foundation helps raise millions of dollars a year that helps pay for everything from scholarships to facility improvements. Van Sloten appreciates the experience of seeing a side of athletics outside of his shoulder pads and helmet.
"I was able to see what happens on a day-to-day basis on the other side of the coin," Van Sloten said. "Not just around football, but in every sport."
Van Sloten didn't take his summer job lightly. After seeing what it takes to raise money for an athletics department, he was ready to give back to the fans and donors.
"It was a great opportunity, and I'm thankful for it every day," Van Sloten said. "I was able to thank the donors and the fans out there for their generosity and everything they do. It might not get acknowledged enough, but from my perspective, I'm thankful for it."
Having 70,585 screaming fans inside Kinnick Stadium every Saturday is a good indication of the fan support Van Sloten and the Hawkeye football team receives on a regular basis. Seeing hundreds of chanting fans at I-Club banquets is another.
"The Hawkeye fans are great," Van Sloten said. "It's amazing how loyal they are and how much they know about you. I was in Keystone, Iowa, which is a smaller town. The fans just showed up and were chanting. It's awesome that we have such a loyal fan base."
On the field, Van Sloten is expected to battle for a starting position on the offensive line. He saw his first extensive action in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma while a teammate battled illness.
"It's a daily competition and nothing is just handed to you," Van Sloten said. "The coaches always preach 'next man in' and I took on that mentality when Markus Zusevics started getting a little sick."
With fall camp around the corner, Van Sloten is ready to start competing for more playing time in front of the fans he was able to personally thank this summer.
"It's going to be a battle this fall to earn a starting spot," Van Sloten said. "It brings out the best in all of us. It's going to be a great opportunity, and there will be a lot of competition."
With his mind focused on football, Van Sloten isn't ready to predict a new career path after his internship. He did, however, love saying thank you to every fan he met.
"As of right now, I'm just enjoying my time working at the Foundation," Van Sloten said. "I'm going to get my degree in business management. If fundraising is in my future, I'd be glad to do it."