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Styskal Featured by College Fanz

Styskal Featured by College Fanz

Below is a column done by Barry Lynn Fouts of the College Fanz Sports Network, formally Victory Sports Network.  The column was done on Tiger senior All-American Seth Styskal.

I've been fortunate to have interviewed players and coaches in the NAIA for five seasons now and it never ceases to amaze me how unpretentious they all are.  But beside the humility, there is an underlying toughness and a love of the game they all have.  That description aptly fits once again, this time with VSN's 1st Team All-American defensive lineman Seth Styskal of the Doane College Tigers.    

You think of defensive lineman as snarling, overly aggressive beings that enjoy the rugged collisions in the trenches.  While that may be Seth during the game, you'd be hard pressed to label him as such off the field.  When I caught up with him recently he had worked the day before (the entire day) with about a dozen Doane students from his fraternity (Sigma Phi Beta) for a fundraiser, clearing trees from a local farm.  He's 6 foot, 250 lbs, far removed from his freshman season at Centennial High in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska when he was 135 pounds.  It was then that Seth developed a love of the game that was highlighted by Centennial's first playoff squad in 10 years when he was a senior.  He's grown more than in just size too; it would help him through some tougher days ahead.     

Looking at college ball after graduation, (now a solid 200), he was recruited by Midland Lutheran, Concordia, Nebraska Wesleyan as well as Doane.  His choice was predicated on two factors, that Forbes list of colleges had Doane high in teacher education and Tiger football captain Joe Radke headed a sizeable group of players in Crete who hailed from Centennial.  Fran Schwenk was the coach at the time Seth signed on, but he wasn't there when fall camp opened.  When Schwenk headed to William Jewell of the HAAC, Doane brought in former Husker great Tommie Frazier.  Seth told me the players were pumped to have such a dynamic figure to follow and expectations were high.  Assistant coach Brad Davis held the hardest workouts I've EVER went through and by the time the season had ended with just a couple wins, the squad had been reduced to about 50 players.  In fact, of the 40+ players that came in with Seth only 10 would make it to their senior season.   

What kept the young freshman going when others dropped from the program?  Seth throws it all back on two very important items.  His love of football was great, is great.  I have to be a part of football.  And, what he felt he was going through paled to what he had watched growing up.  His mom, Mary was a single parent, raising several sons, the youngest autistic.  Seth had witnessed first hand the daily struggles and knew if his mom never quit, he couldn't either.  From that horrific season he accomplished much.  He started the final 8 games, on his way to missing only one contest in four years.  His junior campaign saw more change, for the better it seems.  Frazier left the program with just 3 wins in two seasons and the Tigers, less than 9 seasons removed from a semi-final appearance, had a record of 5-26 since Schwenk's final team.  Enter former Doane All-American Matt Franzen from the Hastings coaching staff.  Seth had heard from friends who played for Franzen in Hastings that he was tough but fair.  What Seth learned the past two years is the coach also has vision and a great determination to bring Doane football back to prominence.     

You can't interview a Tiger without NWU getting into the discussion.  Of his biggest disappointments, Seth listed two; having fellow senior Hondo Fanning injured in the 7th game in '08 and unable to finish the year, and never beating the Prairie Wolves, though coming close (overtime) in his freshman campaign.  He loves the atmosphere of the NWU game, its a notch higher than every other.  As a senior this year he helped pass on the lore surrounding the game just like he received from the upperclassmen prior to his first taste of the rivalry that is at once, the fiercest the GPAC has, and surprisingly, one of the most civil.   

His best memories while in Crete included the '06 game versus Concordia when the Tigers prevailed by scoring the final 35 points after being down 24-0 in the first quarter, and beating William Jewell (a solid team) in last fall's First Down Classic on a 47 yard field goal in the final 10 seconds.  But what he will take from his final game playing for Doane is priceless.  I had 8 sacks before the game and one of the coaches pushed me to get the school record.  It was a very emotional day, we wore the all-black jerseys and even though I did get the record (11.5 sacks), it (the memory) will be stepping off the field as a winner in your final college game at home.   

This Social Studies major, (emphasis in History) is applying for Doane's Lincoln campus, fast-track certification as he plans on teaching and coaching.  That is, after he travels with a few friends to Brazil where camping next to the Amazon and fishing for piranha are on the schedule.  Will he play football again?  Possibly, he has a contract (still unsigned at the time of the interview) with the Sioux City Bandits for arena ball.  If he never plays again, he's thankful to coach Franzen and for playing college ball at Doane where he developed friendships for a lifetime.       

Winner seems to sum up Seth Styskal even though his college team didn't walk off the field that way enough to suit him.  I am convinced he has learned lessons about life at Doane and that his mother, Mary, instilled a drive that may produce even better results after football than on the field to date.  And that jersey number, 96, that he's worn; it's to honor his older brother Matthew Allan who past away in 1996.  No, Seth Styskal will never be a quitter at anything he attempts; just expect his best effort every time out, no matter the field of endeavor.   
B Lynn Fouts