There's a play from Pittsburg State's 24-21 win over Missouri Southern on Saturday that Nate Dreiling wants to talk about, and it's one that came when the redshirt freshman linebacker from Hutchinson wasn't even on the field for one of his game-high 18 tackles.
Dreiling's story picks up right before fellow freshman Jake Craig kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2.2 seconds left to give the Gorillas' their first win in MIAA play.
"So it's one of the most exciting games I've ever been in; and as (Craig) was setting up to kick, I was just pacing back and forth, then a bunch of guys locked arms on the sideline... and (Missouri Southern) called a timeout," Dreiling said, laughing "And that made it even more nerve-wracking, if you can believe it. I'm sweating I'm so nervous, like I can hardly stand to even watch. I mean, can you imagine how Jake felt?"
While Craig's field goal sealed the win, it was the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dreiling who did most of the heavy lifting up until that point, earning him MIAA defensive player of the week honors for the second time this season and vaulting him into a tie for first place in the nation in tackles with 71 on the season. It's an average of 14.2 tackles per game.
Dreiling, the son of Hutchinson High coach Randy Dreiling, wasn't expecting this type of success this early .
"I didn't really know what to expect, being that I'd never played in college before," Dreiling said. "It's easy to make tackles with a great defensive line in front of you, which I have."
Dreiling was forced to watch last year as the Gorillas' struggled to their first losing season in over three decades while he redshirted. It was an invaluable experience for somebody who had played every season since the fourth grade, including starting on state championship teams his final three years of high school.
"It was an extremely long year because all you do is practice and lift weights with no benefits," Dreiling said. "But looking back on it now, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I took that time and got bigger, faster, stronger... my whole life I've just been this tall, skinny guy but I was able to bulk up my frame a little bit.
"I've put on about 15 pounds of muscle; and I think it's made me, mentally, more aggressive out there."
One thing that hasn't changed for Dreiling is his connection to his high school coach. He said he tries to talk to his father at least once a day.
"A lot of the instincts I have for football come from being around my dad all my life, learning how important it is to watch film and study the other team's tendencies," Dreiling said. "And of course, I always read the paper every Saturday morning to see how the old Salthawks are doing."