Ryan Deitz was part of a special time for St. Thomas football.
The Andover native and University of St. Thomas senior defensive back is one of 12 seniors (six starters on defense) that completed their final season in what’s been a remarkable four-year run of Tommies football which saw the program go 50-5.
As it’s been well-publicized, the Tommies finished the season 14-1 with a 28-10 loss to Mount Union in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va., Dec. 14.
The NCAA Division III championship game, a first for the Tommies, culminated quite the stretch for Deitz who was part of head coach Glenn Caruso’s first recruiting class after moving from the Hamline program in 2008.
“He was really ambitious during the recruiting process and I was really excited at what I had heard about him,” Deitz said about the recruiting process with a first-year coach. “To be honest, it’s been more than I can ask for on and off the field. It’s been a great experience.”
Deitz made two highlight plays over his final two collegiate games including stripping the ball from a Mount Union punt returner early in the second half to set up a Tommies field goal to make it 14-10 in the third quarter.
The play made the highlight package on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
One week earlier he knocked the ball loose from a UW-Oshkosh running back on a pitch-play which defensive lineman and classmate Ayo Idowu scooped up and ran 25-yards back for a touchdown.
The team went 11-2 in 2009 when Deitz was a freshman, 12-1 as a sophomore and 13-1 as a junior. Deitz didn’t play a snap as a junior, in 2011, after he tore his ACL during the second week of preseason camp.
“It was kind of disappointing but I was thankful to be able to come back from the rehab with a healthy body and to play well is a dream come true,” Dietz, one of two seniors in the secondary, said. “A year ago to know I’d be in this position, it’s a great feeling. I couldn’t imagine being in this position again after going through what I did with the injury.”
For Deitz, recovering from the injury was first thought followed by trying to make an impact in the secondary once again. “I wanted to come into the new season to better the team and provide a little competition or at least make an impact on the field and I’m so thankful to have a shot to perform,” the marketing major with a 3.03 grade-point average said.
Dietz finished his senior season with some impressive stats: 50.5 tackles (fifth on the team), five tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception, six passes broken up, two forced fumbles and recovered one fumble.
In 2010 he had 42.5 tackles (sixth on the team), 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, three passes broken up and one quarterback hurry in 13 games.
Between 2008 and 2009 he made 17 tackles in 10 games.
To have another overwhelmingly successful record (14-1 this year) is just another testimate to what Caruso, 38, and his coaching staff we been able to do to establish the Tommies as a top-tier football program.
The Tommies haven’t lost a regular-season game since October 2009 and are 57-7 under Caruso.
So there is a great reason he’s a finalist for the Division III national coach of the year award, an honor he’s already received twice.
Deitz pointed to Caruso’s ability to get the most out of his players each day. “What I liked most is that he pushes you. It’s a tribute to his work ethic and he’s definitely not an easy coach to play for,” Deitz said. “He squeezes everything out of you.”
Getting that potential out of every player comes through in the F-A-M-I-L-Y (Forget-About-Me, I Love You) philosophy Caruso and the staff preach about every day.