North Central College football coach John Thorne has coached thousands of players in his career, but it’s hard to imagine him speaking more highly of safety Shane Dierking.
The senior from Thorne’s previous coaching stop, Wheaton Warrenville South, is built like a chunk of steel and is off to the finest start of his career through four games. But the stats don’t tell the story in Thorne’s eyes.
“He loves football,” Thorne said. “He has unbelievable determination that he can do it no matter how big he is (he is listed at 5-foot-8, 171 pounds). Shane had a landslide number of votes from his teammates to be captain. The next closest guy was like 30 or 40 votes behind. If they would all follow his lead, we’d be hard to beat.”
Thorne spent several minutes extolling his virtues, lauding his technique, form tackling, intelligence, speed, bloodlines (his father Scott played eight seasons in the NFL and older brother Dan played four years at Purdue), you name it. And judging by his play on the field so far this season, it’s easy to see where Thorne is coming from.
Dierking was named a preseason All-American by D3football.com, and he has lived up to that billing thus far, thriving in new defensive coordinator Mike Murray’s aggressive scheme. He has four interceptions in four games, giving him 12 in his career. That is one away from 2011 graduate Josh McLeod and three from the program record of 15 established by Norman Robinson in the late 1990s.
“I’m hoping he can break that record,” Thorne said.
There is a reason for the increase in interceptions from Dierking. Murray’s aggressive style is conducive to big plays.
“This year I’ve been a little more aggressive,” Dierking said. “In years past, I was kind of passive and just stuck in my drop and played routes rather than playing the quarterback. (Defensive backs coach Adam Pucylowski) just told me to read the quarterback more and make some more aggressive plays.”
Murray was able to install the defense in spring practice; something that Dierking says has been invaluable this fall.
“It was huge for coach Murray to come in in the spring,” Dierking said.
“Once we hit camp, we hit the ground running. Everyone knew the defensive calls and what we were running. We love the new system here. We bring a lot more pressure and coach lets his players make plays.”
He is second on the team with 20 tackles, 15 solo, and has seven passes defensed and three pass breakups to go with his four picks, which he has returned for 67 yards.
But the honor that sticks out to Dierking more than the stats is the fact that his teammates thought so highly of him to vote him captain in nearly unanimous fashion.
“To get recognition from your teammates, that’s the biggest thing you can achieve,” Dierking said.
“It makes me feel good about myself. The guys can look up to me, not just football, but in school and everything else. I always have it in my mind that I represent Cardinal football. I think some of the young guys see that I do things the right way, so they follow me in that way.”