(NOTE: Reprinted courtesy of The Monroe News and Writer Doug Donnelly)
As the Siena Heights University football team walked off the field last Saturday with its third win of the season, Gibraltar Carlson graduate Ryan Carlson was carrying a hammer.
It was fitting for Carlson because he's a major reason why the Saints are 4-0 for the first time in school history. Carlson is a fifth-year senior for the Saints, who are looking more and more like an NAIA playoff contender each week.
"I love it here," said the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Carlson. "I had some other opportunities, but I wanted to come to a small school where you could get to know your teachers and friends. It's great. Things are going well."
On the football field, Carlson has been dominating and the Saints running game is showing it. SHU has had at least one 100-yard rusher in every game and had two in Saturday's 38-27 win over Saint Francis (Ill.). The Saints are averaging 217 yards rushing a game.
"This guy is the heart and soul of our offensive line," SHU offensive line coach Steve Wilwohl said about Carlson.
Carlson was on the Saints squad the year it tied for the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League championship. That was the fourth year of football in school history. The head coach at the time was Jim Lyall. Matt Kohn – the son of longtime area football coach Bill Kohn - is now in his third season as the Saints head coach.
"There have been some trials," Carlson said. "After I came in, a lot of guys left, mostly the older guys. But, I love this team. It's grown so much the past couple of years. We are all like a family.
"We are moving in the right direction and it will just keep getting better. We're more of a team now than we've ever been. These guys are great. What coach Kohn is doing here is something special."
The rushing attack has been a key to the team's success so far.
"We're shooting for as much as we can get each game," Carlson said. "I can't say enough about those guys. They give us love and I love blocking for them."
Siena Heights has the tough part of its schedule coming up. They will host Taylor University on October 6, then travel to play two-time defending NAIA national champion Saint Francis (Ind.) on October 13. Siena Heights then closes the season with four consecutive home games.
Carlson, the team isn't looking ahead to playing Saint Francis or anyone just yet.
"I'd love to look long-term, but we are just focusing on our next game," he said. "Every opponent is new and you never know what is going to happen, but it feels good right now."
The son of Phill and Gracie Carlson is a psychology major.