Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker started at tight end for Iowa in 1991 Rose Bowl

WASHINGTON  — President Donald Trump named a former college football player, Matt Whitaker of the early-1990s Iowa Hawkeyes, the acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions resigned from the post Wednesday.

Whitaker is a former U.S. district attorney in Des Moines and was the starting tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 1991 Rose Bowl.

The resignation between Sessions and Trump was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general's tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the investigation into potential coordination between the president's Republican campaign and Russia.

Whitaker, 48, who grew up in Ankeny, has been involved in conservative politics for years and has been Sessions' chief of staff since October 2017.  

MORE: Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Whitaker graduated from Ankeny High School, where his football achievements resulted in his induction in the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame. At the University of Iowa, he played football for coach Hayden Fry and remains well known among many Iowa football fans. 

In fact, his first TV advertisement in his failed U.S. Senate campaign tried to capitalize on his ties to the Hawkeye football team.

Fry "taught us to always fight for Iowa," Whitaker said in the ad. "As your U.S. attorney, I protected Iowans, putting thugs and predators behind bars and as your senator, when it comes to standing up to Barack Obama, I won't waver. … You can trust me to fight for Iowa."

Whitaker was at Iowa from 1988-92 and had 21 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

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