Schwartz has exceeded expectationsGrowing up, Nolan Schwartz loved to play football.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Growing up, Nolan Schwartz loved to play football.
He also felt that he knew the limits of where the game would take him.
It took the urging of his father, former Dickinson State football player Randy Schwartz, along with a handful of football-playing friends, to convince him to join the Blue Hawk football team as a walk-on in 2009.
“He told me about how he missed football once it was done, and he saw me growing up, loving the sport and really drove the point home, ‘Why not try?’” Nolan Schwartz said of conversations he had with his father. “I’m happy I did. I really am.”
Now a senior, Schwartz is in his second year as a starting safety for the Blue Hawks, who visit Montana State-Northern at 12:10 p.m. Saturday in Havre, Mont.
He ranks fourth on the team with 54 tackles and is part of a defense that allows a Frontier Conference-best 181 yards passing per game.
It’s safe to say Schwartz has defied expectations, though DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland said he learned long ago never to be surprised at how a player can progress through his career.
“I’ve been in it long enough where you try not to put kids in cubby holes or classify them until you’ve seen them play,” Hofland said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who were supposed to be good that never turned out to be very good at all. It’s always pleasant to see a kid that maybe other people aren’t thinking is going to pan out as a college player and see them have success. That’s probably one of the things, as a coach, you’d like to see almost more than the other.”
DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said it was plain to see Schwartz steadily improve throughout his career.
“He came out of not necessarily nowhere because you could see him making strides,” said Biesiot, who was just beginning his 37-year career when he coached Schwartz’s dad. “He’s been a hard worker and he’s a hustler out there, a guy who never quits and has developed into a very good athlete.”
At 6-foot-1 but thin, Schwartz never gave much thought to playing college football after a couple of average seasons at Dickinson High School.
Schwartz said he weighed about 145 pounds in high school. After only attending school as a freshman, he walked on to the football team at about 150 pounds — and that was after a summer in the weight room.
“Now I’m 170 on my best days,” he said with a laugh.
Built more like his a distance runner than a football player — his uncle, Jerry Schwartz, was the longtime head cross country coach at Dickinson High and a record-setting runner during his days at DSU — perhaps Schwartz’s best attribute is his speed.
“He came in and was undersized and skinny and just kept working hard,” Hofland said. “He’s got that ability to run. I don’t know if that’s a Schwartz trait or not, but he can run like a dog all day long so he’s always in great shape.”
Schwartz focused on using his speed as the best chance to get on the field.
“I set goals every year here,” Schwartz said.
Simply making the team was his goal as a freshman.
As a sophomore, he wanted to make the traveling team and coaches made him a gunner on the punt team. He had three tackles.
Coming into his junior season, Schwartz put the idea of earning a starting spot into his mind.
He has started every game since and finished fifth on the team with 52 tackles as a junior.
“It was step by step,” Schwartz said. “I tried to keep my goals reasonable.”
DSU senior cornerback Mike Fisher said he has watched Schwartz mature both on and off the field.
“He does a great job of leading and I think a lot of players look up to him,” Fisher said.
In four seasons, Schwartz has gone from a skinny walk-on unsure if he’d ever see the field to one of the leaders of DSU’s defense.
“I wanted to do some things better, of course,” Schwartz said. “You always want to do things better, but I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone.”