The glory of a victory in football often goes to a quarterback, running back or wide receiver. Often overlooked is the offensive line, but without the front five, those players wouldn’t find success on the gridiron.
The Bemidji State football team has two senior offensive linemen who have played a lot of football for the Beavers the past four years, a stretch of four years that is set-up to be one of the most successful in BSU’s almost 90 years of football.
After serving as a redshirt coming out of high school, both center Brett DeLange and left tackle Alonzo Melton found the starting lineup within the first two games of their freshman year and now, in the midst of their senior season, are the glue of the O-Line.
“Brett anchors the line. When we first started he was told to learn every position on the line and he did that. For our class he is the heart and soul of the offensive line. Now Alonzo, he is the character. If you are in a bad mood he will get you to smile,” senior running back Dustin Kroeplin said.
“It’s awesome to have in the huddle because I have that teacher that knows the offense inside and out in Brett, and I have that charismatic individual in Alonzo who can get me to smile if I have a bad play,” Kroeplin added.
Melton was called upon as a starter at right tackle his freshman year, while DeLange – who came into camp as a center and was asked to play left guard – stepped in with the top team after a teammate broke his fingers in the second game of the season.
“It was kind of frightening the first time I went in because it was against Minnesota State, they were 10th in the nation and I came in at halftime after Steve Pappas broke his fingers,” DeLange said.
“The first year was tough being a scout and getting beat-up everyday,” Melton said. “Then the next year I was being looked at as someone to be apart of something big and I had to prepare every week, it was new to me, but I enjoyed it.”
The pair of offensive linemen have guided two different quarterbacks to all-conference honors and led Kroeplin to three straight years of all-league recognition and a place in the history books at Bemidji State.
“Kroeplin runs hard and with me being a blocker, personally I love that because I know if I just block that he is going to do what he can with what he gets,” Melton said.
“He is a terrific north and south back and a punishing runner,” said assistant coach and offensive coordinator Eric Medberry. “It’s fun watching him get headed down hill, he tends to look for contact once he gets into the defensive backfield and really adds a physical style to our offense. When Krop is running well it opens things up for the rest of our offense and we can do a lot of different things, which is tough on the opposing defense.”
Kroeplin has made his mark on BSU, as he sits in the top eight all-time in rushing touchdowns (3rd – 31), touchdowns scored (4th – 34), points scored (4th – 210), rushing attempts (4th – 576), rushing yardage (4th – 2,845), average yards per rush (5th – 4.94), 100-yard rushing games (5th – 11), rushing yards per game (6th – 76.9) and all-purpose yardage (7th – 3,248). Numbers speak for themselves, but this humble back knows it wasn’t all his own doing.
“People ask what makes you run so well. I say, it’s the offensive line,” Kroeplin said. “People say I’m just blowing smoke, but the offensive line doesn’t get enough credit and it’s sad because they are individuals working their tails off too.”
When asked if Kroeplin truly does give the O-Line credit in the huddle or locker room and not just in front of the camera, their response with a smile was, “Oh, yeah, he definitely does.” They added Kroeplin has been known to take his O-Line out for a Super Buffet dinner after a big game.
“The thing I enjoy the most is to see the excitement the offensive line has in their eyes and on their faces when I break off a touchdown run or even gain over five yards. Just seeing and hearing them running down the field behind me, they take so much pride and enjoyment in doing that.”
All three of these student-athletes have logged their fair share of snaps the last four years and poured everything they’ve had into the green and white. As their careers wind down they can’t help to think about what is left and what they will miss most about being a Bemidji State football player.
“I feel we play a big part in who wins or loses the game,” Melton said. “Days we have a good game, there is a high chance we will come out on top. That pressure is what I’m going to miss the most.”
“I just want to play every play like it is my last because that day is coming quicker than what I anticipated,” Kroeplin said.
“Getting to go up against someone, trying to blow them off the ball, trying to beat him and put him on his back, I love and will miss that,” DeLange said.
“Having those three guys on the field with the leadership, experience and physicality they bring allows us as an offense to line-up and punch the other team in the mouth. That is an aspect that will be hard to replace,” Medberry said.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).