The game of football is not what is used to be. The Power I formation has been replaced by the new and improved pistol formation. Quarterbacks today have to be as quick on their feet as they do dropping back and reading coverage. Lineman of heavy weight and not much shape are also a thing of the past as the hurry up, no huddle offense has shaped the way the game is played as it is more about catching your opponent off guard rather than patiently pounding them downfield. Last, and certainly not least, the running back position has changed the most within America’s sport.
The days of a single running back who received 20-30 carries per game, and was one of the most vital players on the team, has also become history. Today, if a team does not have more than two reliable running backs their coaches’ philosophy can be looked at as suspect and detrimental rather than smart and conservative. While that change has spread from the professional ranks down to even Pop Warner, Knox has been able to avoid making the full transition due to the all-around player that they have had for the past five seasons at the position.
Senior Derek Mortensen has been an anchor, the cornerstone Knox has built upon. He has shouldered the workload, improved week in and week out and broken many records to boot. However, when it comes to sitting atop the record book, Mortensen is about as humble as they come.
“It feels great to hold records but I still haven’t put too much thought into it. I will have time to look back after my season is over and grasp everything that has went on here during my career. There was a ton of work that went into getting this record and not just by me, but by the coaches and other players on the offense. None of this would have been possible if I didn’t have them, so I try to think of all my records as a mutual record between me and the rest of the offense because they have all been doing their jobs to make it possible.”
This past weekend against Lawrence University, Mortensen set new all-time records for career touchdowns with 43, and career points with 264. Aside from those, Mortensen also set the record for 100-yard rushing games in a season with 8, and tied the record for most 200-yard rushing games in a career with three and consecutive games with a rushing touchdown with seven. When asked how it feels to be in the conversation with some of the great players at Knox with performances like these, Mortensen stated that he couldn’t believe that he is even within this conversation.
“It would be an honor. If you know people that have played here in the past you would know this school is full of great players past and present. To be one of the greats would mean a lot and would be something I could tell my children, my children’s children. It just all feels surreal to be in these shoes and even have this question asked of me.”
Mortensen’s teammates have recognized his talent as well and have done their best to make sure he helps the team to succeed.
“He became one of the best backs to come through Knox,” senior Jordan Willits said. “He has become a much more aggressive runner throughout his time here. He is never scared to put his head down and run through someone, and that is something I like as an offensive lineman.”
This weekend marks the 125th Turkey Bowl between Knox and Monmouth College. While personal records and a great individual season have become a reality for Mortensen, above all else, he wants this win more than anything else he has achieved.
“This game means everything to me. Not only because it’s Monmouth, but because it’s senior day, the last time I get to suit up for Knox and the last time I can go out and play the game of football in a competitive collegiate environment. It’s disappointing that I wasn’t able to be here when the program turned around, but I have great faith that that day is within sight. ”