You have to look extremely hard to find Larchwood, Iowa, on a map.
The quickest way to find it — looking inside the Tennessee Titans’ locker room.
That’s because the small town of less than 1,000 residents located in the far northwest corner of Iowa is home to two members of the Titans defense — former high school teammates Kyle Vanden Bosch and LeVar Woods.
“It is in the far northwest corner of Iowa on the borders of South Dakota and Minnesota. It’s as far west as you can get and still be in Iowa,” Woods said.
And as coincidental as their being in Tennessee together might seem, their stint in with the Titans is not the first time they have been teammates in the NFL.
“I’ve known Kyle since the fifth grade, and his brother [Keith] was two years older than me. I played with Kyle,” Woods said. “It’s not our first time together. We both were in Arizona for four years together. That whole thing is good.”
Vanden Bosch came to the Titans in 2005 after an injury-riddled career in Arizona, which made him a second-round pick in 2001. Woods, an undrafted rookie free agent who made the Cardinals roster that same year, was reunited with Vanden Bosch in the middle of last season, signing with Tennessee after being released by Detroit.
Woods stayed with Vanden Bosch and his wife Lindsay when he first arrived last season while his family stayed behind in Arizona.
“I contemplated just sitting out the rest of last season. My wife was pregnant. We were getting ready to have a baby in four weeks,” Woods recalled. “Once I got released by Detroit, I was just going to go home and be with my family and have the baby and call it the end. Then the opportunity came here and I called Kyle and told him that they called. He said, ‘Come on in to work out.’ So I came and it worked out and just the chance and opportunity to play with him again was something I was looking forward to.”
Vanden Bosch was glad to have his old friend as a teammate again.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s been good,” Vanden Bosch said. “It’s always good to have a familiar face, a guy that you know real well and trust that you can count on. It’s not just about what goes on here, because we go home and our families hang out. Our kids play together; it’s really a good situation.”
It was a very good situation for West Lyon High School in nearby Inwood, or “in the middle of a cornfield,” says Woods, where both played in the mid-1990s. Having two future NFL players on a Class 2A roster made for some interesting Friday night highlights, where Woods was a year ahead of Vanden Bosch at the county school.
“He was the first Division I football player to come out of our high school [signing with Iowa], and then I was the second [to Nebraska], because I was a year after him,” Vanden Bosch said. “It just didn’t happen, because nobody came out of a small town like ours.”
Coach Jay Rozeboom said he figured out pretty early on that he had two special players on his hands.
“They would just completely dominate the competition at that level,” said Rozeboom, who still coaches at West Lyon. “Even then, you could see that they were special. They would go hard and go the whistle.”
Back then, a 235-pound Vanden Bosch played fullback on offense and linebacker on defense. Woods, whom Rozeboom described as “a skinny kid,” was the team’s tailback and defensive end.
“It was fun playing together, because he was the tailback and I was the fullback, and we were bigger than almost all of our offensive linemen,” Vanden Bosch said.
Vanden Bosch as a ball carrier? Woods says it was almost humorous seeing the way the Titans defensive end dominated teams.
“In high school, you’re two yards from the line of scrimmage,” Woods said. “He was right behind the quarterback and running the triple option. They give him the ball and they didn’t have a clue that he had the ball. He was five yards down the field before they knew he had the ball and 130-pound safeties were trying to tackle him. Not to mention, he threw outstanding blocks for me.”
There was really only one disappointment during that time — the 1995 state championship game which Rozeboom says West Lyon lost in the final minute of the game by four points.
“We didn’t win the state championship, which still gets me,” Woods said.
The two players still have a connection with the school and the area, as they put on a free football camp at the school every year.
“They come back every year and put on a football camp here,” Rozeboom said. “It’s good for the kids here to get something like that for free. You can’t get much for free anymore, but that’s a good thing.”
Added Vanden Bosch, “We go back and we do a football camp there every year that is sponsored by the NFL to try to give the younger kids some encouragement. It’s basically the same camp he and I went to when we were kids.”
In addition to having the talent to make it to the NFL, Rozeboom said both players’ work ethic in and out of football was key part of their makeup.
“Kyle grew up helping his dad who had a cement and masonry business,” Rozeboom said. “He worked on the crew there, and that was such hard work that he looked forward to starting two-a-days. Not many people look forward to that, but Kyle did.
“LeVar milked cows to make extra money. Both these guys were hard workers and good young men. The fact that they had this type of work ethic is part of the reason they made it.”
That hard work is still prevalent in their play on the field today.
“It’s funny, because we both have really had our success because of where we came from. We’ve had to work for everything,” Vanden Bosch said. “We didn’t really get a lot of notoriety. [Work ethic] is what he’s known for, and it’s what I’m known for. Nothing has really been given to us, we’ve had to really earn everything.”
The proud folks of Larchwood, Iowa probably wouldn’t have it any other way.