Nathan Bazata heard the slights directed his way in just about every imaginable social setting. At wrestling meets. At summer football camps. Even from folks in neighboring cities.

Everywhere he went, people suggested Bazata wasn’t a “real” football player. And why? Because he lived in the town of Howells, Nebraska (population 552), where the local high school played eight-man football instead of the 11-man version due to its small number of students.

Hey, you’ve been playing three guys short, they would mock at some camps.Isn’t it too crowded out here for you?

“That kind of made you want to prove to them something different,” Bazata said.

Perception and reality do not always align, and Bazata is among a trio of defensive linemen for the Iowa Hawkeyes who are confirming that truism in each game. Bazata, Drew Ott and Nate Meier each played eight-man football in high school. They also represent three of Iowa’s four defensive line starters now, with Bazata at tackle and Ott and Meier playing defensive end for a team off to a 3-0 start with a chance for its first undefeated nonconference season since 2009.

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