Nooksack Valley’s Dane Winter figured he was down to one more season to fulfill his longtime dream and give himself a better chance to play college football.
That’s why the lifetime lineman asked coach Robb Myhre to give him a shot at running back going into his senior season with the Pioneers.
The results speak for themselves.
In his first two games, he rushed for 300 yards, averaged 12 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. In his third game, Nooksack’s 28-21 win over King’s, he scored on a 73-yard run and finished with nearly 100 yards rushing.
Winter started as a junior at outside linebacker, so he was expected to be a significant contributor as a senior on defense. But he still had his dream.
Former Nooksack running back and current quarterback “Cole Eldridge and I went to Coach Myhre before spring football, and I asked for a shot at running back,” said Winter. “I had always wanted to carry the ball.”
Determined to play college football
Winter, now 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, had always worked hard in the weight room; he gained 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason. But he’s been something of a late bloomer when it comes to speed.
“I went out for track as a junior and did pretty well in the sprints,” he said. “My track coach, Collin Buckley, noticed I had some speed and asked me to work out with the sprinters. With Austin O’Bryan playing so well in the backfield and Cole, the football team didn’t need me on offense when I was a junior.”
Winter says he is “absolutely determined” to play college football.
With his ability and willingness to block and run, not to mention his work ethic and hard-charging style, he figures the backfield is his best shot. He also likely could be outstanding on special teams.
“I’ve loved college football since I was 6 years old. I‘ve always been a huge fan,” Winter said. “Wherever I have to go, whatever level fits me best, I want to play in college.”
Winter is interested in majoring in criminal justice to become a corrections officer.
Setback strengthens his love for football
Ironically, he realized just how much he loved football after he broke his foot in his third varsity game as a sophomore.
“That’s when I really knew how much the game means to me,” said Winter, who spent the rest of his sophomore year in rehabilitation. “I really missed the game. I was so hungry to get back.
“I received tremendous support from my older brother (former Nooksack football standout Luke Winter) and from my parents.”
Of course, his football friends at Nooksack were a big part of that, as well.
With fellow seniors Eldridge and Braden Leyba also runners of promise, Winter is glad he has plenty of backfield help. Perhaps nobody will have to carry the ball 25 or 30 times per game.
“I also have to give our offensive line a lot of credit,” he said. “They’re making this possible for us.”
In the first game of his life as a running back, Winter gained 161 yards on 17 carries in a 14-13 overtime loss to Sehome.
With his slashing style, he looked like he had always been a backfield standout. His first carry went for 18 yards, before he added carries of 18, 19, 18 and 17 yards.
He scored from the 12 in the Kansas tiebreaker, but he also learned how to handle backfield disappointment when Sehome’s defenders halted him from making a potential 2-point game-winner on the conversion.
He added scoring runs of 25 and 62 yards in Nooksack’s 42-0 win over Granite Falls in Week 2.
“It’s truly been amazing … I have surprised myself somewhat,” Winter said.
Week 4 schedule
▪ Lummi at Neah Bay, 5:30 p.m.
▪ Arlington at Ferndale, 7 p.m.
▪ Squalicum vs. Marysville-Getchell at Quil Ceda Stadium,, 7 p.m.
▪ Mount Baker at Lynden Christian, 7 p.m.
▪ Nooksack Valley at Meridian, 7 p.m.
▪ Cedarcrest vs.. Bellingham at Civic Stadium, 7 p.m.
▪ Sehome at Mercer Island, 7 p.m.
▪ Lynden at Archbishop Murphy, 7 p.m.
▪ Burlington-Edison at Blaine, 7 p.m.