Utschig speaks up

By Jarrod Rice

When it was announced All-MAC linebacker Javan Lee would miss the season, the NIU football team needed someone to step up.

Junior safety Dustin Utschig answered the call and made his mark by leading the team in tackles in his first two starts: 13 at Michigan and 14 at Northwestern.

Utschig chatted with the Northern Star about his new-found fame, his days at running back, and making the big hit.

Northern Star: You missed the Tennessee Tech game. What exactly was wrong with you?

Dustin Utschig: I went to the hospital on Friday night and just had the 24-hour flu, and I had three IV’s in my arm.

NS: How sick were you exactly?

DU: Well, I’ve never really been sick a day in my life. During the team movie I got sick and left halfway through, and spent the night at the hospital and ended up sleeping through the first half of the game.

NS: How tough was it to not even be at the stadium after playing on the team so long?

DU: It was frustrating not to be on the sidelines, but I was pleased with what I saw.

NS: You won the special teams MVP in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. Has that helped your career take off?

DU: Special teams really helped me prepare for starting and you have to give it all on when you’re on special teams.

NS: Have you been getting more attention since you won the award?

DU: Yeah, I’ve been getting more attention. If you’re starting and making plays you get more attention so I’m just trying to go out and make plays.

NS: Do you like the attention?

DU: I’m more of an under-the-radar kind of guy, but I just let the chips fall where they may.

NS: You’re leading the team in tackles. Have you felt like you’ve needed to step up with the injuries you’ve had on defense?

DU: Well, it’s never good to have a safety lead the team in tackles. We’re a young team, but that’s no excuse. Coach keeps telling us that we’re a bunch of no names and we need to go out there and make a name for ourselves.

NS: How did you make the transition from running back in high school to safety here?

DU: I played running back on the scout team my redshirt year here, but I really like hitting people.

NS: What’s better: hitting a guy or scoring a touchdown?

DU: I love the thrill of a big hit. It’s much better than scoring a touchdown.