Nate Dreiling -- 2013 Teamkong Player of the Year

Carla Wehmeyer
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Dec 31, 2013

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In retrospect, there are a lot of really smart people who look pretty silly right now. 
Nate Dreiling -- just the third four-time All-American in Pittsburg State football history, the leading tackler in school and MIAA history as well as the third-leading tackler in NCAA Division II history and the TeamKong Player of the Year -- was offered exactly one scholarship to play football.
That offer, of course, was from Pittsburg State.
“There were a lot of schools talking to me, but nothing worked out. Some of the coaches got fired and the others decided to go with someone else. Fortunately for me, I ended up here. It’s been a blessing.”
Dreiling wasn’t the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but he and his dad -- Hutchinson High School head coach Randy Dreiling -- had teamed up to win four straight KSHSAA state championships. There was no question about his motor, and definitely no questions about his film study, work ethic and football IQ.
“I’ve always been able to read plays way before they happen and beat people to the ball,” Dreiling said. “Then you incorporate film study, and that gives you a definite leg up.”
And on the day that Dreiling signed his letter of intent to play with the Gorillas, he did a little research.
“The first day I committed to Pitt State, I went to their website and looked up what the tackle record was and entered it into my phone,” Dreiling said. “Every time I opened my phone my senior year, I saw that number. It was always in the back of my mind.”
That number -- 470, as in tackles by former Gorilla great Chris Brown -- was surpassed in a Pitt State win at Lindenwood, and Dreiling tied the MIAA mark in a heart-breaking loss to Missouri Southern that ended PSU’s postseason chances.
Early in that loss, Dreiling hyperextended his elbow and then later had to be helped off the field with a high ankle sprain and a knee injury. He returned with a J.J. Watt-style elbow brace and -- with one arm and one good leg -- recorded 14 tackles to tie Truman’s Marti Rave with 489 stops.
And in the Mineral Water Bowl, a still-injured Dreiling played long enough to set the conference mark before coming off the field.
“To be honest, it was bigger breaking Brown’s record because he’s someone I know and this school has a proud tradition,” Dreiling said. “The MIAA record is great, but it doesn’t mean as much as the Pitt State record.”
Dreiling was an instant hit for the Gorillas -- in more way than one. As a redshirt freshman, Dreiling put together a season for the ages as he led the nation with 160 tackles and was named a first-team All-American by Daktronics and Don Hansen, along with a multitude of other honors.
But Dreiling also was an outspoken leader from the second he hit the field.
Throughout a disappointing 2010 -- the first year of the Tim Beck regime that saw the Gorillas go 6-6 and win in the Mineral Water Bowl -- Dreiling constantly told the media that he came here to play Gorilla Football, and that this wasn’t Gorilla Football.
But after four years -- not to mention an NCAA Division II national title -- later, Dreiling believes the program is on the right track.
“Coming in, we won six games my first year,” Dreiling said. “We were in most of those games, but we just didn’t have the firepower on either side of the ball. We became better competitors … It became more important to us. That showed with the amount of wins we had.”
As for Dreiling -- who graduated in December -- he will be playing on Jan. 18 in the East-West Shrine Game and hoping to play on Sundays next year. Dreiling said he has signed with an agent and is hearing talk of being a late-round draft pick or an undrafted free agent pickup. 
It is a testament to the talent the Gorillas have amassed when someone of Dreiling’s ilk wasn’t a shoo-in for TeamKong’s POY. There was much talk of splitting the award between he and electric wide receiver/kick returner John Brown, and Dreiling captured the award with a 60/40 split of the vote. Only seniors are eligible for the award.
However, you can count Dreiling in the 40 percent that voted for Brown, who also had a record-breaking season, destroying the career receiving mark set by Ronnie West in the early 1990s.
“I’d give it to John,” Dreiling said, shaking his head. “He’s just that good.”
Now one of the most storied careers in Pittsburg State history is over. And the linebacker that nobody wanted is working for his shot to play in the NFL.
But before he could get to thinking too far ahead to his future, Dreiling was asked a question that forced him to think about his past.
The question: “If you were told at the beginning of your career that you could only make the playoffs once in your career, but that in that year, you would win a national title, would you take that deal?”
The answer: “I came in out of high school winning four (state) championships, so I just came in with the mindset that we were going to win four national championships,” Dreiling said, matter-of-factly. “If you had said, ‘Give me one championship,’ I’d have told you to give me a chance at a championship every year. That obviously didn’t work out.
“Obviously, I’m still grateful for our one national championship. It was quite the feat.”
Kind of like going from being offered a single scholarship to becoming possibly the best linebacker to play at a football powerhouse.
“It makes you feel like you proved everyone else wrong,” Dreiling said. “When only one school has faith in you and you turn out to be one of the best to play there, it feels good.”

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