Character sparks comeback

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

He’s a bone-crunching Division-I linebacker expected to be a standout this year, says head football coach John Stiegelmeier. He’s shown it so far this year, serving as co-captain on a Jackrabbit defense hard-pressed. But it was not always this way.

As a freshman, Kranz was a Division-II starting linebacker. He started all 11 games and ranked second on the team in tackles.

And then the bottom fell out. The next season, he started only one game. The reason was simple: someone else stepped up. He became a backup linebacker after losing his position to another player on the team.

“It wasn’t bad by any means. It was just kind of hard to come from being a freshman starting 11 games, and then coming the next two years and not being able to start pretty much hardly at all,” said Kranz.

But this season is a different story for the Watertown graduate and three-time Jackrabbit letter winner. After two seasons coming off the bench, he has regained his starting position for his senior year.

He came in as the number-one linebacker and has started all three games thus far. He’s the comeback kid, but he knows who’s hot on his heels.

“I came in as the one … but the kids behind me are real good. They are young … but are going to be real good,” Kranz said.

A way to improve

A two-time member of the Academic All-Great West Football Conference Team, Kranz used the demotion from starter in his second year as a big push. It drove him to work harder, to push for more.

“I felt like … I should be doing better. I took it in stride and tried to run with it, tried to improve myself,” he said. “I just tried to get back in. I was doing my best every week, to try and to get back on the depth chart.”

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed. He wasn’t just improving himself. He pushed up the talent level of the entire team. Even with his loss of position, he stayed dedicated to Jackrabbit football.

“Marty was loyal. He honored the decision,” said Stiegelmeier.

Stiegelmeier has been impressed with Kranz’s loyalty and said the linebacker would do whatever the coaches asked him to do.

“I have seen the two things I value the most in a person (in Marty) … hard work … and a man of character,” he said.

Stiegelmeier said he did not notice a change in Kranz’s work ethic after losing his starting position. He said Kranz “works extremely hard all the time.”

“He was a picture of what you want as a team member,” he said. “He is a pleasure to coach.”

Last season, Kranz battled injuries and split time with other players. His efforts paid off – he finished fourth on the team in tackles.

‘Good times’ and new challenges

Through the ups and downs, Kranz has enjoyed his time at SDSU.

“Being with friends … just hanging out, it’s been great. Basically, just get to be with your friends all day. Lot of good times coming in,” he said.

Kranz recalled one memory in particular-his first game at SDSU. The Jacks played top-five rated Northwest Missouri State.

“They had first in goal on the 5. We ended up getting a penalty for a first down on their fourth down. So they had eight plays inside the 3 to get into the endzone. We ended up stopping all eight plays,” said Kranz. “I got an interception that game. It was my first college game. It just took one play to get those butterflies out of me. It’s all good from there.”

Kranz faced all D-II opponents his freshman year. Now in his final year, he plays against D-I foes.

“Big difference between the people that we play … the game is a lot quicker … smarter quarterbacks,” he said. “The opposition is quite a bit tougher.”

Because of the move to Division I, Kranz only played one game against former rival University of South Dakota. He likes how the new rivalry with North Dakota State is taking shape.

“I like the Border Battle … I think it’s a great thing.”

#1.884296:2385369968.jpg:martykranz02.jpg:Marty Kranz comes off the bench this year as a defensive co-captain.: