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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 24 2012

Walk-on has been valuable addition to Bison defensive line

FARGO – The first meeting between North Dakota State assistant football coach Tim Polasek and high school defensive lineman Brian Schaetz was all both of them needed to know.

Polasek shook the kid’s hand and then looked at both of them.

“He picks up my hands and says, ‘Do you work somewhere?’” Schaetz said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I work on a dairy farm.’ Then he’s like, ‘You have some tough-looking mitts on you.’”

Those tough-looking mitts have translated into a tough-playing defensive tackle. The freshman from Denmark, Wis., is playing a valuable backup role for the best scoring defense in Division I Football Championship Subdivision and the Bison will try to maintain that Saturday when they host Southern Illinois.

Nobody with the team is surprised at Schaetz’s contributions. He made an instant recruiting bond with Polasek, who like Schaetz, is a hard-working, tough-as-nails product of small-town Wisconsin football.

Denmark is a town of 2,200 people located in the northeast corner of the state.

“I shook Brian’s hand and instantly knew there might be a 270-pound body in there,” Polasek said. “He is a powerful, powerful kid. Brian is a farm kid from Denmark, and it doesn’t take long to realize that when you’re around him. The kid has a big heart.”

While the Bison have stars who grab the headlines, a team isn’t complete unless it has the guys in the trenches that don’t care about attention. Schaetz fits that role perfectly.

He received recruiting attention from Central Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, which got interested on Schaetz between his sophomore and junior seasons.

Wisconsin eventually went a direction other than Schaetz, which he said was probably fine with him anyway because he wasn’t much for the email and internet recruiting methods anyway. He did not have an email account.

Polasek was the only one to make his way to rural Denmark.

He had a couple of Division II offers, one being St. Cloud State (Minn.). But he was so sold on NDSU that he verbally committed in August as a walk-on his senior year in high school.

“Those kids come in with a chip on their shoulders. ‘So and so missed out on me,’” Polasek said. “They are hard-working hungry guys, and you can’t have enough of them around.”

The fact NDSU already had a couple of small-town Wisconsin kids in defensive tackle Justin Juckem (Chilton) and safety Colten Heagle (Kimberly) made it an easier decision.

He relished the scout team role of going against the Bison veteran offensive linemen, saying that made him feel a part of the FCS national title last year. This year, with Juckem being slowed with knee ailments, Schaetz has filled in nicely behind starter Ryan Drevlow.

He’s forced one fumble, recovered another and was in on a quarterback sack.

“It’s been crazy. Four years ago if you would have told me I would have been in the rotation for North Dakota State, I would have been like, ‘No way,’” Schaetz said. “When coach Polasek came to the door at Denmark High school, I said, ‘Why not give it a try?’ ”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia