PUEBLO, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado State University-Pueblo isn’t just a good Division II football program; it’s excellent. The ThunderWolves are 106-17 over the last 10 years. A national title is great and this year marks the third straight with at least one former player in the Super Bowl.
“How many people get to realize their dreams?” asks CSU-Pueblo Coach John Wristen. “It’s pretty freaking cool.”
That’s the culture that Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen and Chiefs defensive tackle Mike Pennel come from.
“There are two things that a player can control: attitude and work ethic. From there, you have to find ways to separate yourself,” Wristen said.
Jensen was an under-sized, under-recruited center from Fort Morgan who has always played with a chip on his shoulder.
“He’s a straight-ahead, battle-you-to-the-whistle blocker. Some people don’t like that, but you better be ready when the ball is snapped, because he’s coming for you. I remember one game for us, when he was flagged for excessive blocking… I didn’t know that was a penalty,” Wristen said.
Pennel, a product of Grandview High School in Aurora, was a big-time recruit for Arizona State University, but he found his footing in Pueblo.
“He has an amazing ability to turn it on and off,” Wristen remembers, “Late in a game at Northern Colorado he made a huge sack, but the sun of a gun gets up and starts dancing around and ends up costing us 15 yards. I pulled him out the game and told him, ‘You know you just cost us the game,’ but he just said, ‘I got you coach, I got you coach,’ and sure enough, first play we put him back in — he had another sack.”
Talk about being able to count your blessings.
“Those two have been incredible ambassadors for our program. They’re a great reflection of what we always want to do here,” Writsen said.