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Eastern Iowa provides fertile recruiting ground for Division II football dynasty
Dec. 22, 2016 8:05 pm
Less than 20 miles from the Iowa state line lies a college football dynasty.
With a population base of just over 12,000, football coaches at the Maryville, Mo.-based Northwest Missouri State University have successfully canvassed the region for championship-level football players.
The Division II football titan claimed its third national championship in four years last weekend, and Iowans have long been a vital part of the Bearcats' winning formula that now totals six titles in two decades.
'We recruit Midwest kids and there is a heavy contingent of Iowa kids in there,' Northwest Missouri State Coach Rich Wright said. 'It's just who we are. It's our identity.'
After 13 seasons as a Bearcats assistant — the past six as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach — Wright was named head coach on Monday after Adam Dorrel was hired at FCS-level Abilene Christian.
Eastern Iowa has been Wright's recruiting territory for the entirety of his tenure. The Northwest Missouri State roster includes 24 Iowans.
'Our Iowa kids are used to hard work and they aren't used to just being handed things,' Wright said. 'They tend to be program type of kids. I think that just bodes well and fits well with the type of program that we have here at Northwest Missouri State.'
Two of his senior standouts hail from Iowa City Regina.
Wide receiver George Sehl caught 91 passes for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns in 39 games over the past three seasons, but missed Saturday's national championship game after breaking a leg in the semifinal.
Wright called former Regina linebacker Jacob Vollstedt 'our MVP this year.'
Despite playing with a broken hand, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Vollstedt capped a superb collegiate career with 10 tackles — one for loss — a sack and a forced fumble in Saturday's 29-3 national-championship victory over North Alabama. Vollstedt collected more than 120 tackles in each of the past two seasons, and Northwest Missouri State was 55-2 with three national titles in his four years.
'He was an unbelievable football player, and a better kid,' Wright said of Vollstedt. 'Everything he does is first class. He's extremely motivated. Intrinsically, he works harder than anybody else. He's one of those guys. He's the first guy in the weight room, the last guy out of the weight room and everything he does, he just does well.'
Sehl and Vollstedt helped Regina win the first two of its six-consecutive state titles, a streak that ended in November.
'There's a lot of parallels between our programs,' said Wright, whose wife Sarah, coincidentally, is a Regina graduate. 'Just the success and the culture and the way we do things. ... Can't say enough about those two kids and what they've meant for our football program.'
Defensive end Cass Weitl, a Carroll native, and receiver/quarterback Randy Schmidt (North Scott) turned in substantial performances in the national title game.
Weitl, who has generated significant attention from NFL scouts, matched Vollstedt with 10 tackles, plus 2 1/2 sacks. Schmidt ran for 96 yards and threw a touchdown pass.
More native Iowans are waiting in the wings.
Former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Tim Otting, another Wright recruit, is expected to compete for a spot on the offensive line when spring practice begins.
Quarterback Jayden Johnson, a multisport standout at North Cedar, continues to impress the coaching staff, but is behind a couple of upperclassmen.
Both will be sophomores for the 2017 season.
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