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Dependable offensive tackle leads by example for Freeport

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Nathan Rummel (left) takes on Alex Lassinger during practice Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, at Freeport High School.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Nathan Rummel pauses for a portrait during football practice at Freeport High School on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

Freeport ball carriers who want bundles of rushing yards this football season should stay close behind the soft-spoken, slimmed-down blocker at right tackle.

Surrounded by teammates with few varsity starts and even fewer accolades, senior offensive lineman Nathan Rummel is a bit of a star. And the 6-foot-2, 270-pounder, a first-team All-Allegheny Conference selection the past two seasons, shed weight and improved his speed in order to move people better for the Yellowjackets, who despite a 40-14 loss to Kittanning in the season opener hope to claim at least a share of the conference title for the third consecutive year.

“I wanted to get faster and have more endurance, too,” said Rummel, who played at 280 pounds as a sophomore and 295 as a junior. “I'm not worried about any strength loss. I've still got all of that.”

Strength, particularly the amount he possessed in his legs, caught his coaches' eyes two years ago. Rummel, who plays only offense, entered the starting lineup at a time when upperclassmen on the offensive line abounded, so he followed the guidance of seniors Jon Turner and Alex and Sean Carson.

As a junior, Rummel moved closer to the center of attention. But Brian Welsh and Shane McKillop saved him the obligation to energize the line.

“He's somebody who goes out there and does his job,” said senior Cam Kelley, Freeport's only returning full-time defensive starter. “He's not going to sit there and yell at the kid next to him, unless the kid ticks him off somehow.”

Freeport's rushing attack flourished in 2011 and 2012: It gained 2,096 yards and 2,366 yards, respectively.

Those other players on the line are gone. Rummel is the only full-time returning offensive starter and one of the team's eight seniors.

“I'm used to having to look up to the other guys,” he said. “Now I've got people looking up to me. … I'm definitely not usually a leader. It's something I've had to wrap my head around, for sure.”

Coach John Gaillot expects Rummel to remain just as strong, quiet and well-mannered as he did the past two seasons. Rummel does not need to become the Yellowjackets' rah-rah leader, nor is he likely to become such a figure. All Gaillot has asked of his senior standout lineman is to show the younger players how to act.

“He leads by example,” Gaillot said. “There's no one here who really leads by voice. They'll motivate each other, but no one is going to stand up and give a speech like Knute Rockne or anything.

“We've changed some things. We're even more demanding than we've ever been, just because we're so young. And they've responded very well.”

No member of the coaching staff asked Rummel to lose weight. The senior made that decision during the offseason. With teammates in tow, he hit the track several times a week and ran for miles. He also cut back his food consumption.

“This year, I'm probably even more impressed than in the past two,” Gaillot said. “He's quicker. He looks more dominant. He's just a lot stronger than he was. He really committed to getting himself in shape.

“We just expect him to turn loose and truly dominate. And he expects that, too — just dominate whoever is across from him.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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