During his standout football career at Huntley High School, Jordan Neukirch was used to carrying the ball as a top-notch running back and stopping ballcarriers as a premier linebacker.
Now as a junior at Illinois State, Neukirch is thriving in a new role as the team’s starting fullback.
“It’s a much different role than in high school,” Neukirch said. “There’s not a lot of recognition. But I enjoy doing the grunt work.”
Neukirch’s work has helped the Redbirds pile up nearly 190 rushing yards a game during a 4-0 start, the team’s first unbeaten record after four games since 1967.
This week, the Redbirds jumped three spots to No. 12 in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll.
“[Being undefeated] means a lot to us,” Neukirch said. “It shows that all of our hard work over the summer is really paying off.”
Along with protecting senior quarterback Matt Brown, Neukirch has boosted ISU’s running game. Senior tailback Darrelyn Dunn has rushed for seven touchdowns and is averaging 105.5 yards a game on the ground, the fourth-best average in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do,” Neukirch said. “I try to be as physical as I can be. I consider myself part of the offensive line.”
Last weekend, in a 23-3 win at Western Illinois, Neukirch helped Dunn rush for 114 yards and two TDs, then contributed to the victory with his own scoring catch. Neukirch’s 12-yard TD catch in the third quarter was the first of his career.
“It was a seam route, and Matt put the ball right on me,” Neukirch said.
ISU’s 4-0 start and 11 consecutive weeks in the FCS Coaches Poll rankings has helped erase some of the sting of missing last season’s FCS playoffs. Along with winning at Western for only the second time since 1994, the Redbirds also have a win this season under their belt against Football Bowl Subdivision member Eastern Michigan.
“We wanted to come out and make a statement that we belong in the playoffs,” Neukirch said.
Brauneis pacing Gators: Florida junior setter Taylor Brauneis, a Prairie Ridge grad, leads the D-I Gators and the Southeastern Conference with 11.43 assists per set.
Brauneis has helped the Gators (9-2) start 3-0 in SEC play and jump one spot to No. 12 in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll.
Thanks to Brauneis, in her first season with Florida after transferring from Louisville, has helped the Gators hit .318 as a team.
Brauneis had a season-best 53 assists Sept. 14 in a 3-2 win against Arkansas.
Krebs on his game: In one football game last weekend, D-III North Park quarterback Tyler Krebs scored nearly as many touchdowns as he did all of last season. His efforts earned Krebs the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s Offensive Player of the Week Award on Monday.
Krebs, a junior from Cary-Grove, threw four touchdown passes and ran for two scores to lead the Vikings (1-2) to a 46-21 win against Olivet College.
While completing 11 of 13 passes for 167 yards, Krebs threw scoring passes of 53, 2, 14 and 2 yards. He also rushed 18 times for 165 yards and TDs of 29 and 4 yards.
Last season, Krebs compiled nine touchdowns. This season, he leads North Park in rushing, passing and total offense.
Dubuque dynamo: D-III University of Dubuque senior forward Nick McDonald (Cary-Grove) was selected as the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s soccer Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
McDonald posted four goals and an assist last week to lift Dubuque (7-2) to wins against Bethel and Wartburg.
For the season, McDonald leads the conference in four offensive categories, including goals (10) and points (25). He has three game-winning goals this fall.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.