By Rick Fromm
By Rick Fromm

    A young boy grows up on a Northeast Iowa farm where he learns the value of hard work and perseverance. It’s a family business that spans generations, and in order to make it work and pay the bills, everyone has to do their part … and then some. No one gets a free pass and that includes the handsome, strapping lad and his brother and sisters.

He accepted his lot in life with dignity and a determination that are rarely seen – especially in a boy who is just coming into his own. From handling turkeys that weighed just about as much as he did, to feeding livestock, to repairing fences to whatever else needed to be done, he took part in everything required to keep the operation viable and productive.

With his big square jaw leading the way, he didn’t complain to his parents but rather knuckled down, buckled down and got the job done. No matter what it took. Period.

The life lessons he learned on that farm have served him well. They represent a huge part of who he really is. As a result, the core of the kid became as solid as the land he grew up on. He never waivered from his commitment to home and family, and earned the respect of everyone who knows him. Earned being the key word.

As he grew into manhood, it soon became obvious he had a certain something special that made him stand out amongst his peers. While he participated in all the sports offered in small-town Iowa, from baseball to basketball, it was on the football field where his talent and drive came to the fore.

Although not blessed with blazing speed, he possessed all the other necessary attributes in spades. With great hands, a motor that never shut down and a quest for excellence that made more than one opponent cower and run in the opposite direction, he played the game with a gusto and enthusiasm rarely – if ever -- seen.

His anticipation and uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time more than made up for any “lack” of speed. By a long shot.

Naturally, his reputation spread quickly throughout Northeast Iowa and by the time he put on his Viking helmet for the last time he was feared and respected by all those who had to share the gridiron with him. Put more succinctly, he was a “monster” on defense who asked no quarter and gave none. He played every game, every down, every snap at 120 miles per hour, and he’s still doing it to this day.

His incredible performances during his senior year in high school are still talked about to this day, and to absolutely no one’s surprise he led the Decorah Vikings to the state championship and was almost universally considered the best dang football player in the entire state of Iowa.

But, surprisingly, the big-time college grid programs did not break down his door with scholarship offers. Not by any stretch. Did he panic? Not a chance. Instead he remained patient and trusted in the process. Typical Josey. And it paid off.

As you are aware by now, I’m writing about Decorah legend Josey Jewell – or as he is more affectionately known, the “Outlaw.” His folks, Bob and Paula Jewell, named him after the “Outlaw Josey Wales” – a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails character portrayed in a classic western by Clint Eastwood.

The moniker fits him perfectly. But make no mistake, Josey was/is not a bad guy. Like Eastwood, he is an “Outlaw” who takes great pride in defeating the real outlaws who roam the football fields of America. To be sure, he’ll hit you hard enough to make little birds fly around your head, but his hits are always clean and are meant to stun the opponent, not kill him.

Iowa finally came to its senses and, at the last moment, offered Josey a scholarship. A wise move indeed. The Decorah stalwart went on to become an All-American, was a team captain and recorded so many tackles they’re still adding them up.

He was drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos (his favorite pro team while growing up) and recently signed a four-year contract that should help him pay the rent – or whatever else he wants. And I mean whatever.

There are some who think Josey won’t make it in the pros – “he just doesn’t fit the mold” they say  -- but don’t count me among them. I’ve seen what he can do ... countless times. I firmly believe the Outlaw will be playing for a long, long time.

Besides being a dandy linebacker, Josey is a genuinely good guy. How good? Everyone I talked to about Josey signing a mega contract had the same reaction. “Good for him,” they said. “He deserves it.” There wasn’t a hint of jealousy.

For the record, Josey will be wearing No. 47 for the Broncos. If you forget, just watch the guy making the tackle – that’ll be the Outlaw.

Congratulations on making it to the big time Josey. It’s well deserved and we’re all pulling for you. Show ‘em what a young man from Northeast Iowa is made of. We’re proud of you.