AMES - Glance over an Iowa state map and there's no mystery in the moniker: State Center.
Though these days the name rings true in more than just its geographic location.
A quick rundown of the Iowa State football roster reveals three players from West Marshall High School. And in turn, a community of less than 1,500 has become a recent central pipeline to Jack Trice Stadium - or in other words - "State Center."
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
From left, West Marshall grads Dalton Ferch, Drake Ferch and Tysen Streeter form one of the largest high school contingents on the Iowa State football team. Both Ferch brothers are hoping to contribute on special teams this season, while Streeter expects to redshirt.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Just a half-hour drive east from Ames down Highway 30, the home of brothers Drake and Dalton Ferch and Tysen Streeter has made an impact outdone by only one other high school in terms of sheer numbers on this year's roster. West Des Moines Valley holds the distinction in most players from the same prep school with four, though the Class 4A juggernaut has approximately 1,900 students in grades 10-12, more than seven times the high school enrollment (grades 9-12) of Class 2A West Marshall (254).
Perhaps more impressively, State Center trails only Dallas, Tex. (population 1.223 million), Orlando, Fla. (243,000) and Ankeny (46,000) for total players from one city. Dallas - the ninth largest city in the United States - has five members on the roster, while Orlando and Ankeny each have four.
It's a rarity not lost on the Trojans, who are enjoying the opportunity to extend their playing careers together at the NCAA Division I level.
"It's exciting. It kind of shows our athletic ability over at West Marshall," said Dalton Ferch, a redshirt freshman running back who raises the number of State Center representatives to four when including the recently departed Kody Sjoblom. The redshirt junior defensive linemen turned in his pads before the season due to a serious back injury but remains with the squad as an intern coach.
"We just lost Kody ... but he's still around the team helping out. So we really kind of have four. It's just exciting that we all played together and now we're here at Iowa State together too."
Drake Ferch and Streeter took a more roundabout way to Ames, with each transferring from NJCAA power Iowa Western Community College. Drake spent two seasons in Council Bluffs, while Streeter's lone campaign with the Reivers resulted in a 12-0 record and national championship.
Regardless of the path that brought each of them to Iowa State, they all came from similar beginnings at a Class 2A program.
"It just kind of shows how we're athletic enough to participate at this level," said redshirt junior defensive back Drake Ferch of the West Marshall trio. "(We) sort of get overlooked being a smaller school. Our hard work has paid off and our coaches there are really getting us to where we need to be."
Both Dalton and Drake hope to contribute on special teams this year, while Streeter - a defensive back - expects to redshirt this season. The Trojan connections continue off the field as the three share an apartment with former West Marshall quarterback Braydn Beals.
While all four can relate to the gridiron, Beals' separation from the college game offers a refreshing perspective - especially after a long day of practice.
"Having (Braydn) around is nice because he knows what football is about and when we come back if one of us had a rough day he's always there to help us through it," said Streeter.
"He'll say, 'Hey, I really wish I could be doing this and that. You guys are really fortunate to do that.' It really keeps our heads on straight too."
Whether they're competing on the field or unwinding at the apartment with some spirited Xbox battles in NCAA Football and Call of Duty, the West Marshall grads feel right at home with one another after an extensive list of athletic accomplishments at State Center.
"At the end of the day, we're basically a family - all four of us," said Drake.
"We went to school together, did state track together, state basketball together, state football together. It's just nice to unwind around those guys too, to just get away from it and relax."
The West Marshall clan could gain another member next year if Trojan senior Duncan Ferch decides to take his talents to Ames. The Class 2A first team all-state running back has received scholarship offers from at least seven FCS schools, though he also attended camps at both Iowa and Iowa State.
While the Trojans would welcome another member of their brotherhood, they won't force the issue with Duncan.
"I'm going to let him do his thing. It's his choice," said Dalton.
Drake would enjoy another opportunity to bond with his youngest brother, though he understands the importance finances can have in a college decision.
"It's nice seeing him grow. I kind of grew up with Dalton, I didn't really grow up with Duncan being four years younger than me," said Drake.
"He's rolling in some of those offers. It would be great to get him here but at the same time, the money is nice and you can't complain about that."
Regardless of how the Cyclones' season plays out or the amount of playing time each Trojan gets, the West Marshall crew appreciates the opportunity to go through it together.
"You're going through the same things, not just with random people," said Drake.
"You're going through the same struggles with football and school, so it's good to have those kind of people around."
West Des Moines matches State Center with three players from one town though, its fourth player - redshirt sophomore defensive end Nick Kron - is from Clive. Ankeny is the hometown to four players on the roster, though one of them - junior defensive linemen Tyler Harmeyer - attended Dowling Catholic (the high school of three players on the ISU roster). ... South Tama County's Brandon Horbach (Toledo) is a redshirt sophomore quarterback on the current roster and incoming freshman Dylan Lyman (Grundy Center) is a preferred walk-on. ... City populations were rounded and based on 2011 census reports.