BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – I can clearly remember watching Nate Gunn’s highlight film for the first time online last year and thinking, ‘That’s a big back.’
And when you see him in person, there’s definitely that sense.
Gunn, a freshman running back at the University of South Dakota, may not be the tallest back (he stands 6-foot-1), but at 205 pounds, he’s certainly one of the biggest. And he’ll only get stronger.
Though he didn’t play in the signature upset at North Dakota State, Gunn figures to see additional action out of the backfield following the season-ending injury to leading rusher Trevor Bouma.
Coyote fans have already seen flashes of what Gunn (25 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD) and fellow freshman Michael Fredrick (59 carries, 222 yards, 1 TD) can do with the football, and starting with Saturday’s home game with Missouri State, they’ll see additional flashes.
I caught up with Gunn, a native of Minooka, Illinois, after Tuesday’s practice at the DakotaDome.
OK, I have to ask about the North Dakota State win. What was that like?
It was amazing. I can say, by far, one of the biggest memories I’ll have for football, probably ever. It was just crazy, watching that team be the top dogs when I was in high school, now we go up there and prove everyone wrong.
So, even for being new to the program, you had a pretty good idea where the Bison had been?
Yeah, I knew all about them. We knew who the top dogs where, even before I went up there.
What’s your first year been like?
Right now, it’s going pretty well. Just trying to get into the rhythm, and I’ve been opening up more. I had a little bit of a slow start, but now I’m starting to get the hang of it. Division I football is whole other level than high school.
Was there an adjustment period, going from high school to Division I?
Definitely. Games are so much faster, and you’ve got to react right away.
Getting your first taste of college football against Kansas State, was that a huge difference?
The players were just so much bigger and faster, and there wasn’t any bouncing it outside or cutting it back like you were used to. It was harder yards.
Do you feel like you’ve started to settle in now?
I feel like I’m starting to get the rhythm of it, hopefully stuff starts flowing better for me now.
Has there been one moment in particular this year where you felt like you were getting more comfortable?
The Youngstown State game. I think that’s when I opened up the most; started to get the hang of it. I felt like after that game, I knew what my role was and what kind of running back I am.
It’s unfortunate what happened to Trevor Bouma, wasn’t it?
That’s huge. He’s a good kid, he comes out every day and gives it his all. He busts his butt every day for us, and he’s an amazing athlete. When something like that goes down, it’s sad; sickening. We wish him the best and he’ll come back better than ever.
Are you pretty anxious to get the opportunity to be on the field a little bit more?
That’s the plan for me right now. Trevor’s taught me a lot, just watching him and being behind him. He’s taught me a lot about this game and about how to open up to this offense. I think I’ll be ready because of him.
Are there certain things you emulate from him? Or are you two totally different backs?
Just seeing him run hard; he runs hard every yard and gets the extra two or three yards every time he gets tackled. That’s what I got most from him, seeing how hard he runs. Every play, he always finishes to get the extra yards, and those end up being big. Just like they were at North Dakota State.
Isn’t that crazy sometimes how those extra few yards here and there end up winning you a game?
Exactly. That’s all it is. We did pretty good on third down and it was all because we got the extra push.