Dylan LaFrenz. Football player. The two things go hand-in-hand, right?
If you look at LaFrenz, you may wonder how he or anyone else ever thought that the game of football was not pre-determined for him. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 295 pounds. Not really the mold of most soccer players – the sport that LaFrenz had initially gotten into first growing up.
"I started out playing soccer, but my parents have always been big football fans," said LaFrenz. "They were more excited than me when I decided to play football freshman year of high school."
As time went on LaFrenz got better at football and learned the game more as it would become a reoccurring factor in his life.
"I didn't even think of playing football in college until the end of my sophomore year and into my junior year, when I was starting to get looked at," LaFrenz said. "I was very surprised by it. My family doesn't really play sports. They are more like book worms."
He initially had plans to play football elsewhere, but unforeseen circumstances brought LaFrenz to Northern Arizona and Lumberjack Country didn't complain.
LaFrenz arrived in Flagstaff eager to strap on the pads and helmets and get down to work so that he could show off his skills. That didn't exactly happen as quickly as he would hope, as he was told that he would be redshirting his first season.
"Redshirting my freshman year was awful," LaFrenz remembered. "It was hard because I wanted to play. Looking back, it checked my ego at the door and Friday mornings definitely got me physically ready to play the next year."
LaFrenz made four appearances his redshirt freshman season and by the next year he had really developed into an impact player starting six of 10 games.
With his sophomore year under his belt, LaFrenz was ready to make an even bigger impact his junior season. LaFrenz went through spring camp and was looking forward to the next season. Unfortunately for LaFrenz, camp didn't treat him too well.
"I was playing in spring ball and my knee felt weird," LaFrenz said. It turned out that the weird feeling that the lineman felt was an ACL tear. "I was surprised because I didn't feel anything so when I got the results I was shocked."
Much like anyone who suffers an injury, LaFrenz wanted to return to the field as soon as possible. He wasn't Superman though. He knew that he had to go through rehab and work his way back into things. For LaFrenz, the time it took for his knee to heel, kept him out for what would have been his junior year.
Sitting on the sideline is never fun. It's especially hard when your friends are out on the field playing the sport that you all love and you have to sit back and watch.
"It was very depressing," LaFrenz reflected, when thinking back to that time period. "Seeing games that you felt like you could've helped change the outcome was hard. For example, Montana (2015). We gave up a ridiculous amount of sacks and not being able to be there and help my brothers fight was hard."
Ups and downs, every athlete goes through it, just at different times in their careers and for a different length of time.
Now in his final season, LaFrenz has been able to help his teammates like he wanted to do last season. The offensive line has been dominating as it has aided in 4,895 yards of total offense this season. In addition to the offensive yards production, the Great Wall of Linemen has allowed just four sacks all season to lead the Big Sky and entering Saturday's contest, they haven't allowed a sack in six games. All of it is a tribute to all of the hard work that LaFrenz, his teammates, and offensive line coach Tim Davis has put in all season.
"This year has been a lot of fun," LaFrenz smiles. "When it's your senior year, you can kind of let it loose and be free to yourself."
As LaFrenz lines up with his brothers on Saturday, he will remember all of the good times that he has had as a Lumberjack and take with him the memories that will last a lifetime.
When asked about what playing college football has meant to him, LaFrenz simply stated, "It has its ups and downs but it's definitely worth it. The relationships you make and overcoming adversity is a part of it. There's no better feeling than beating No. 2 Eastern Washington on a last second catch. You can't describe that feeling. You don't get many of those in your life."
For a young man from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., playing football collegiately became a reality as time went on. His path to NAU may not have been set in stone from the start, but he has undoubtedly learned that football means family and his band of brothers is why he gives it his all every Saturday.