by Steve Peterson
Talking about football during Thanksgiving have been a way of life for decades in American households but outside of Le Mars a group of nine current and former football standouts gathered for the annual feast.
The athletic family, Men of Fall, includes: Skyler Bauer, running back and defensive back, 2nd Team All District, Most Valuable Player, Sioux City West; Eric Eskra, A-W alum quarterback and defensive back; Kolten Wilwerding, quarterback and defensive back, Glenwood, Iowa; Cory Eskra, quarterback and defensive back, first team All-District this past season, A-W; Cal Eskra, eighth grader, A-W football player; Charles Eskra, who played for the Madrid High School Tigers, quarterback, 1941; Mark Eskra, youth football coach, 1984 A-W alum and football player; Jerad Plueger, offensive line, played on 2005 Le Mars High School team that made it to the UNI-Dome (semifinalist in Class 3A) and Nick Plueger, Middle Linebacker, Le Mars alum who just completed his senior season at Buena Vista University and played in the UNI-Dome (semifinalist in Class 3A).
A-W had a great year with a 10-2 record and other squad’s seasons are in the memory books, one game remains in 2012 for the clan.
Buena Vista University senior linebacker Nick Plueger will play in the Fourth Annual Division III Senior Classic Football Game which will take place in Salem, Va., at 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 7. A total of 70 players from across NCAA Division III have been selected to take part in this North versus South All-Star format.
“It’s huge honor to be selected to participate in the D-III Senior bowl in Virginia. It will definitely be a memorable experience and I look forward to competing with 70 of the top seniors in the nation,” said Plueger.
Plueger was recently named to the All-Iowa Conference First Team Defense, finished this season as the nation’s leading tackler, averaging 14.2 stops per contest. He posted a career-high 142 stops overall, a mark that was just six shy of matching Buena Vista’s single-season record. He came into this year with only 18 career tackles.
“The first three years there I got to learn from two of the best linebackers they have had there in years,” said Plueger. “That was a big building block for me. I knew going into the off-season I would be relied on for senior leadership.”
“He was a very solid player. The all-star game was a well-deserved honor. He was a three-year letter winner but had only started for this year,” said BVU Head Coach Jay Anderson of Plueger.
Hosted by the Collegiate Developmental League (CDFL), the event is the only game exclusively dedicated to showcase the top D-III players from across the country. Scouts from various professional football leagues, including the National Football League, Canadian Football League and others will be in attendance.
Plueger had 52 solo tackles and 90 assists for his 142 total tackles. He also contributed 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of nine yards, had one pass break up and one fumble recovery for the Beavers.
The Beavers finished with a 4-6 record and a 4-3 record in IIAC games to finish in a tie for second place behind Coe College.
“I went there on a recruiting visit. I thought it was a beautiful campus. I found out they are very welcoming and would take care of me athletically and challenge me academically,” said Plueger.
Plueger plans to continue his interest in sports in coaching as he is an education major. But because of the all-star game he hopes his playing days aren’t over yet as he prepares to play before several professional scouts representing various leagues including the NFL and Canadian Football League.
“I’m not ready to hang up the cleats,” said Plueger.
Plueger’s football interests began while as a ball boy for Le Mars Community High School. His freshman year, 2006, the Bulldogs made it to the UNI-Dome for the Class 3A State Semifinals, where they lost a heartbreaker to Humboldt in overtime, 20-14. Playoff wins were over Harlan, 20-14, and Carroll, 28-20 by the Bulldogs. It was back-to-back trips to Cedar Falls for Coach Jim Boyd’s team, as Jerad Plueger played on the 2005 squad. That team lost in the semifinals, 35-21 to Harlan; earlier it beat Clear Lake, 7-3; and Humboldt, 31-7 in the postseason.
Following his Bulldog days, Nick worked hard and learned his first three years as a BVU Beaver, in the tough IIAC league.
In 2012 BVU had a rough non-conference schedule with an 0-5 record but won four straight games including beating Central College 30-25; Loras College 42-19; Luther College 14-7 and Simpson College for Plueger’s Senior Day, 29-27.
Plueger had 20 total tackles in a 38-14 loss to Concordia, Minn.; 15 total tackles in a 42-21 loss to Wartburg; 16 total tackles against Loras; and 14 total tackles against Central.
“We had not defeated Central for years and we beat them for Homecoming on a last-minute interception,” said Plueger.
Plueger finished the season with 15 tackles in the Beavers’ 34-28 overtime loss to Dubuque.
BVU Head Coach Jay Anderson is in his seventh year as head coach for the Beavers. He was also the team’s offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. His brother Larry Anderson is defensive coordinator. He has coached 40 all-conference players, including 24 in the last eight years. The Beavers have ranked in the top three in the IIAC in scoring defense in four of the last five seasons, while ranking in the top three of the last four years in rushing defense.