WHITEWATER — At the beginning of last season, Nate Trewyn’s teammates had every reason to count him as an outsider.
He was a transfer coming in from NCAA Division II Minnesota State-Mankato, and he played the same position as returning center Spencer Shier, a Division III third-team All-American.
But from the first day, Trewyn — a junior who went to high school at nearby Milton — quickly earned the admiration of coaches and teammates.
“Once you see him on the field, he’s explosive, he’s exciting. He’s a pleasure to work with,” senior offensive lineman Mitchell Schauer said.
“One of the nicest guys you’ll meet; you wouldn’t think he was such a good football player.”
Coach Kevin Bullis noticed Trewyn’s performance in practice.
While saying it was a tough decision to give Trewyn the starting nod over Shier — a former Portage athlete who appeared in just eight games last year due to injury — Bullis insists he wasn’t the one who made the decision.
“He earned it. We have a saying here, ‘As coaches, we don’t decide who plays, players do.’ We just tally. That’s our job. We tally successes. We tally failures,” Bullis said. “And ultimately in the end, the numbers show Nate Trewyn earned the job. He gets to run out there first.”
Trewyn’s performance in 2016, which earned him first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, ensured there would be no second-guessing. The Warhawks returned to the top of the WIAC, going 7-0 in the conference and 12-1 overall, advancing to the third round of the playoffs.
Street & Smith has named him a preseason first-team All-American and D3Football.com and Lindy’s Sports named him to their second teams.
Bullis heaps praise on Trewyn, who is 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, pointing out he’s more than a big guy who can block.
“Besides being a talented young man — I mean he’s a mountain of a man, he’s extremely athletic — but it was really his leadership to me that was utterly amazing,” said Bullis, who is entering his third season.
“You’re coming in and challenging a returning All-American at a position. And his demeanor is such that everybody loved him right off the bat. Guys gained confidence in him immediately.”
That confidence in the offensive line helped the entire offense, spurring the Warhawks to average 34.8 points, 198.9 rushing yards and 212.8 passing yards per game.
Playmakers such as senior receiver Marcus Hudson, said the offensive line was a key to the team’s success.
“Being able to develop a route, take your time on a route and work the defensive back, it’s just awesome knowing that the offensive line will give (quarterback) Cole (Wilber) at least five seconds,” said Hudson, who caught four touchdown passes last season. “It just makes a big difference. I’m grateful for this offensive line.”
Senior tight end Tony Gumina, who also caught four touchdown passes, says Whitewater has the best offensive line in the country.
“No one outworks them. No one is smarter than them. It really helps having them on that side of the ball, because without them, we wouldn’t be able to make the plays,” Gumina said. “Just because we score a touchdown doesn’t mean that they didn’t do anything. They did everything in order for us to put six points on the board.”
Bullis wouldn’t go as far as claiming that the Warhawks have the best line in the country, but he did say he couldn’t disagree with Gumina’s claim, saying his unit is in the “top echelon.”
A year ago, that unit might not have even included Trewyn. But with a combination of natural talent and leadership skills, Trewyn quickly became a beloved part of the Warhawks line.
“Everybody can tell he’s authentic and real. He’s caring, polite, committed,” Bullis said. “Everybody knew he was all in immediately. He showed that right off the bat.”
Trewyn is an imposing guy, but like his fellow linemate Schauer said, he seems too nice to be lining up in the trenches every Saturday.
Soft-spoken and with a constant smile on his face, Trewyn expressed his gratitude to be named to preseason All-American lists. But, individual awards aren’t what he’s after.
Trewyn said playing in a winning program offers plenty of motivation.
“The recognition for preseason All-American is cool, but the goal is to add another one of those trophies,” Trewyn said of team’s six national titles. “The sky’s the limit for us this season.
“We’re ranked third this preseason. We take that kind of to heart, I guess, because we expect to be one at the end of the season.”