College football: GNK’s DeChampeau heeds coach’s advice, signs with his alma mater, UMD

Minnesota Duluth football head coach Curt Wiese answers questions while introducing the 2020 class of recruits at Malosky Stadium in Duluth Wednesday afternoon. (Clint Austin /

Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin football coach Bob Schwartz called his old school, Minnesota Duluth, in the middle of last season to give the Bulldogs a heads up about a special talent they should take a look at.

“That’s how this all went down,” UMD coach Curt Wiese said.

The culmination of that phone call resulted in GNK senior wide receiver Dylan DeChampeau signing a national letter of intent to play football for the Bulldogs starting this fall. DeChampeau, Superior linebacker Brady Herbst and the rest of UMD’s class of 24 recruits were announced in a press conference Wednesday at Malosky Stadium as part of national signing day.

“Both guys are extremely talented in the position we’re going to play them,” Wiese said. “Dylan is a little bit of an untapped talent. He’s extremely explosive and is longer.

“Brady is a guy we’ve had in camp. We’ve seen him for a couple summers and know he has a really high ceiling for us. We’re excited to see those guys grow when they become just football players.”


Wiese talked glowingly about all the multisport athletes the Bulldogs have among their recruits, including DeChampeau and Herbst, something he said is a big plus.

“It tells you the kid likes to compete,” Wiese said. “We get that question a lot, ‘Is it OK if I play spring baseball, should I play basketball?’ The answer for us is always, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ You get one opportunity to compete in those sports at the high school level and, for us, we want to get guys who want to compete, who want to be part of a team and make that team better.”

Which brings up an interesting point about DeChampeau: he wasn’t always a football player.

DeChampeau played football growing up but went out for cross country in seventh grade to avoid getting hurt as he focused on basketball. But as he emerged as a star athlete in basketball and track and field, he felt like something was missing. So his junior year, he went out for football.

“I just felt like I would regret not playing football in high school,” DeChampeau said. “And I think it has actually made me a stronger basketball player, just in terms of physicality and quickness.”

It took all of one game for DeChampeau to realize he made the right decision.

Home game. Players on the field, fans in the stands, early fall air, Friday night lights, Americana at its finest.

“My first game back, that really just set off a spark,” said DeChampeau, a Greenway student. “I just fell back in love with it. It was just a great experience.”


Now, when asked his favorite sport, he doesn’t hesitate to answer, “football.”

UMD has traditionally been a little smaller at wide receiver but this year’s class could signal a shift in strategy as three of the four wide receivers in the group are 6-foot-5 or taller, including DeChampeau.

DeChampeau is one of the Northland’s top all-around athletes, but the biggest challenge could be filling out his 6-5, 190-pound frame.

“Yeah, for sure,” DeChampeau said, laughing.

This winter DeChampeau is averaging 27.8 points and 11.3 rebounds for Greenway’s boys basketball team. He is also a two-time state qualifier in track and field and has top marks of 11.3 seconds in the 100 meters and 6-feet, 4-inches in the high jump.

Football coaches know how to make use of that kind of athleticism, and this past fall DeChampeau had 21 receptions for 658 yards — good for 31.3 yards per reception — and nine TDs to lead GNK to a 7-3 record.

“Dylan is going to be good — he’s just raw,” said UMD offensive coordinator Chase Vogler. “We’re excited about him.”

DeChampeau came on late and was recruited by all NSIC schools and some Football Championship Subdivision schools. DeChampeau said UMD was an easy choice but he admitted there was a little friendly urging from his coach. After all, that’s his alma mater.


“For me, it was the perfect location, close to home, they have a phenomenal program and the coaches were probably the biggest part,” DeChampeau said. “My high school coach is a really good guy, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing football the past two years. He’s pretty excited about it.”

  • DeChampeau’s teammate, running back/linebacker Eli Conaway, signed Wednesday with Sioux Falls. Conaway, who had 97 tackles and six sacks for a defense that only allowed 11.1 points per game, was conference player of the year the last two years.

  • UMD is coming off an 8-3 season and 12th-straight NSIC North Division championship. Among potential blue chippers in this year’s recruiting class is 6-3, 210-pound quarterback Kyler Brown of South Elgin, Ill., somebody Wiese said has that “it factor” and Vogler said the Bulldogs were on early.

“He was our No. 1 quarterback since April,” Vogler said. “I showed the film to Curt and we loved him, so we went after him and got him.”

Thunder’s Roddy signs DI offer

Fond du Lac defensive tackle Rayshaad Roddy signed Wednesday with North Carolina-Charlotte, a Football Bowl Subdivision program that plays in Conference USA.

Roddy, a second-year player out of Mount Healthy High School in Cincinnati, led the nation with 23.5 tackles for loss in nine games, including 12.5 quarterback sacks. He led Minnesota College Athletic Conference defensive linemen with 63 tackles last fall.

Roddy’s teammate, Emani Douglas, a second-year offensive lineman from Orlando, Fla., signed with Friends University, an NAIA institution in Wichita, Kan.

Wednesday’s signings increased the total number of players on the 2019 Thunder football team accepting offers to nine.


Name Position Height Weight Hometown/School
Justin Azure OL 6-4 265 Waseca, Minn. (Waseca)
Dylan Bair DB 5-11 185 Prior Lake, Minn. (Prior Lake)
Ethan Beffert LB 6-2 225 Hutchinson, Minn. (Hutchinson)
Kyler Brown QB 6-3 210 South Elgin, Ill. (Saint Charles North)
Landon Carter LB 6-2 210 Lakeville, Minn. (Lakeville North)
Owen Davis WR 6-6 195 Brainerd, Minn. (Brainerd)
Dylan DeChampeau WR 6-5 190 Coleraine, Minn. (Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin)
William Faul DL 6-4 235 Lake Geneva, Wis. (Badger)
Brady Herbst LB 6-3 185 Superior (Superior)
Marcus Holasek TE 6-3 230 Chaska, Minn. (Chaska)
Luke Houdek OL 6-0 235 Jordan, Minn. (Jordan)
Jerod Jandt LB 6-1 205 Peshtigo, Wis. (Peshtigo)
Ethan Jauquet OL 6-3 260 Muskego, Wis. (Muskego)
Seth Kohel RB 5-11 195 River Falls, Wis. (River Falls)
Daniel Mitchell RB 5-11 190 Las Vegas (Las Vegas Arbor View)
Nick Moen OL 6-5 260 Victoria, Minn. (Chanhassen)
B.J. Murff WR 5-10 160 Minneapolis (Hopkins)
Derrek Piepho DB 6-0 195 Alexandria, Minn. (Alexandria)
Cassius Rohadfox DL 6-0 285 Sheboygan, Wis. (Sheboygan North)
Tristan Root P/K 5-8 180 Eau Claire, Wis. (Eau Claire Regis)
Nick Ruhland DB 6-0 180 Independence, Minn. (Orono)
Seth Schmucki P/PK 6-4 160 Randolph, Wis. (Randolph)
Spencer Spaude WR 6-5 215 North Mankato, Minn. (Mankato West)
Ben Stienessen DB 6-2 190 Byron, Minn. (Byron)

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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