Oct. 15, 2010
By Kevin DeVries
Dane Wardenburg knows what it's like first hand to play for programs rich in tradition. He was a three-sport star at Creston High School. He also knows what it's like to play for a positional unit that is also steeped in tradition here at Northwest Missouri State.
Wardenburg is a 6-7, 295-pound senior tackle for the Bearcats and is in his second season of being a full-time starter. Wardenburg has played in 37 games for the Bearcats and made 21 starts. However, Wardenburg wasn't always the behemoth you see before you now playing on Saturday's.
"I've drastically improved since I first got here," said Wardenburg. "I was a skinny 230-pound lineman when I arrived and I wasn't very strong. I think what got me here was my footwork and I attribute that to playing basketball in high school."
Wardenburg was an all-state, front-court player for Creston who once pulled down 22 rebounds in a single game. He finished with more than 300 boards as a senior. That was before Northwest assistant football coach Richard Wright and current strength coach Joe Quinlin got him in the weight room.
"They really turned that around for me," said Wardenburg. "I'm not the strongest on the team by any means, but I would say I am one of the stronger players. I think that comes from being able to dedicate myself and having those two push me."
As far as on the field, having Adam Dorrel, a Northwest All-American lineman in his own right, as your offensive line coach is a big advantage.
"It's easy to respect him as a coach" said Wardenburg. "He played here and obviously played really well. If you sit down and talk with him or listen to him, you can tell he knows a lot. He works harder than anyone I know.
"I've learned so much about technique from coach Dorrel that it's unbelievable. It's really hard not to improve here if you just pay attention and work hard.
Wardenburg believes that a lot of the program's success comes from older players molding the younger ones and that the tradition of success carries down from one graduating class to another.
"When I came here Joe Holtzclaw and Reid Kirby were our starting tackles," said Wardenburg. "They showed us the ropes and really tried to help us and teach us whatever they could to help make us better down the road. We take pride in making the younger players better. Hopefully they will do the same when they are seniors."
Tradition is why Wardenburg came to Northwest and playing for a program that has an opportunity today to set the MIAA record for most consecutive conference victories is one of those perks.
"The fact that Northwest already holds that record, and having a chance to beat it would be special," said Wardenburg. "We haven't broken it yet. That's something we have to earn on Saturday."
Wardenburg and all the Bearcats will be focused on beating Emporia State today and that will be the only thing they're concerned about. Not because they're playing for a record, but because that's the Northwest philosophy-one game at a time.
"I think that's something we do a good job of here, not looking by anybody," said Wardenburg. "When we played Truman we weren't looking ahead to Missouri Western and so on. To be honest, I don't even know who we have next week. We don't look past anyone and we go out and get it done. That's just how we are coached."
Playing for Northwest is one thing, but playing for an offensive line unit that is so well respected is also what drew Wardenburg to Northwest. Since coach Tjeerdsma arrived in 1994, the Bearcats have had 20 first-team All-MIAA offensive line selections and have had 10 different players named to an All-American team.
"It's great being a lineman here," said Wardenburg. "I mean how many years has it been since we haven't had an All-American lineman? It's something that I'm so excited to be a part of. That's why I came here and what attracted me to Northwest, I wanted to be the best I could be and play at the highest level. Northwest gives me both those opportunities every time I step out onto the field."
Wardenburg will take the field today with his offensive line mates and the rest of the Bearcats trying trying to get consecutive win number 42. Playing in a game like this is why he came to Northwest and it is something that every Bearcat strives to be a part of.
"You come to Northwest to play in big games" said Wardenburg. "This is why you want to be here- the atmosphere, the crowd and the chance to play for the best."
Wardenburg will do everything he can to keep the streak alive and in turn, will also help the younger linemen who will look to continue the streak once he graduates.
"Former teammates Jeremy Davis, Reid Kirby and Tom Pestock really helped me out when I was young," said Wardenburg. "Hopefully I can help the younger guys the same way those guys helped me."
Making everyone better. It really is the Northwest way.
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