Aug. 15, 2012
DeJong and Bearcat defense taking shape
By David Boyce
Safety Nate DeJong enters his final season at safety at Northwest Missouri State as a changed man.
Well, his core principles are still intact. His work ethic is unquestioned, and DeJong is willing to help the younger players get better.
“He is great with the young guys, and that is something I really try to get across to our older guys,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “I always see him coaching the young guys up. That’s something I really appreciate from him.”
As Dorrel said these words after practice early Tuesday afternoon, he looked at DeJong and his growing beard and his leaner body and talked about the change that only a married can understand.
“He got married,” Dorrel said. “That was the big thing for him this summer.”
On May 26, in their hometown of Rock Rapids, Iowa, Nate DeJong married his high school sweetheart, Sabrina.
Sabrina, who graduated last spring from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, might be one reason DeJong has shed a few pounds while adding muscle mass.
“It is nice coming home to a nice, cooked meal after practice instead of making my instant whatever for the night,” DeJong said.
The trait that quickly comes across when talking to DeJong is his willingness to give others credit.
A year ago DeJong finally got his chance of extended playing time after spending three seasons in the program. He started 12 games, recorded 32 tackles, recovered three fumbles, including one that led to his first collegiate touchdown.
Obviously, DeJong put the things he learned the previous three seasons to use and took advantage of his opportunity.
While DeJong mentioned the part about making good use of the opportunity, he gave credit to secondary coach Ken Gordon for the success he enjoyed a year ago.
“Last year I got my turn. I like to thank Coach Gordon a lot for the things he did,” DeJong said. “The way he coaches definitely benefitted me. I like to give a lot of credit to him.”
And to Dorrel’s eyes, DeJong is in better shape than he was a year ago. DeJong admits he is in the best shape he has been in since joining Northwest in 2008.
DeJong, though, didn’t talk about all the running and weight lifting he did this summer.
Instead, DeJong praised the work of Joe Quinlin, Northwest’s strength and conditioning coach.
“I think Joe did a great job with us this summer,” DeJong said. “Of all my years of being here, this is the best shape I’ve been in going into the season. I feel good. I am trying to get some speed. That is the leaning up part.”
This senior class is no different from any other at Northwest. They want to go out with a national championship.
A year ago, the Bearcats had a fine season by most Division II football programs’ standards. Northwest finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the quarterfinals in the Division II playoffs.
But two of those losses came against rival Pittsburg State and the last one was the most painful. The Bearcats fell to the Gorillas in the quarterfinals. Pittsburg State went on to win the Division II crown.
“If you need any more incentive than that then I don’t know what else can drive you,” DeJong said. “We strive to be on top every year. Seeing your most hated rival win it like that, it pretty much lights a fire. If it doesn’t light a fire you shouldn’t be a Northwest Bearcat.”
The thing that has made Northwest so successful year after year is its ability to focus on the immediate task at hand.
Presently, the Bearcats are getting prepared for a long season and slowly implementing the game plan for the home opener against East Central Oklahoma at 7 p.m., Aug. 30 at Bearcat Stadium. East Central is a non-conference opponent.
Northwest will play three of the four new teams joining the conference this season so the schedule is different from previous years.
“I’m excited about it,” DeJong said. “There will be some new offenses for us to see and some new defenses for our offense to face. Let’s see what they bring. I really don’t know much about them.”
DeJong does know about the Northwest defense. He is like a lot of his teammates who started on defense for the first time a year ago. They gained valuable experience while winning.
“I expect a lot. I’d say the sky is the limit for our D,” DeJong said. “We added a lot of new guys last year and a lot of those guys are back. I expect us to be the backbone of the team.”
DeJong is definitely one of the defensive players the coaching staff is counting on.
“He had a great season last year,” Dorrel said. “He does a great job of being really physical. He tackles in space and plays the run. He does a good job of not getting beat deep.
“He’s a great leader. He’s a team captain. He’s a great student-athlete.”
And he’s happily married to his high school sweetheart. DeJong has put himself in position to have his most enjoyable season at Northwest.
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