NEW PALESTINE — Most coaches will tell you, football is a game won and lost in the trenches.
If you have an offensive linemen like 6-foot-4, 270-pound Nick Derheimer in the furrows for your team, you’re going to win a whole lot more than you lose.
Last month, Derheimer scored a victory for himself as he secured the next step of his football career by committing to Indiana State. The quick-footed senior chose the Sycamores above five other schools including Division I Eastern Michigan. His other offers included Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Taylor University and St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer.
The Sycamores are coming off an 8-6 record, their best finish since 2012, and are ranked 20th in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.
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In such a competitive conference, with teams like four-time FCS champion North Dakota State and Illinois State, that record is even more impressive.
But it wasn’t just the new-found winning tradition that drew Derheimer to Terre Haute, it was the player-coach dynamic that secured his commitment.
“My coaches (at New Palestine) are like father figures,” Derheimer said. “I felt Indiana State was just like that, it was just a big family.”
His mother, Barbara Anderson, echoed that sentiment.
“The coaches (at Indiana State) were very inviting and very kind,” Anderson said. “They believed in him from the beginning; and when Nick sat down in the head coach’s office and said I want to commit, he started screaming and gave Nick a hug.”
Being close to home is also a big deal, not necessarily for his parents, who are thrilled that he’s only an hour and half away but also for Derheimer.
“He wants his family to come and see him play,” said his father, Travis Anderson. “He looked at Eastern Michigan, and they were very impressive; but they’re four hours away.”
Derheimer also was impressed with how the Sycamores are strictly business when it comes to football and that reminded him of how much football is like at New Palestine.
“They don’t have the big, flashy weight room or stadium, and neither does New Pal,” he continued. “We make do with what we have, and we make it work, and I like that.”
His frame is what drew the eyes of recruiters. He was big to begin with but has increased his gains over time and has improved his skill set.
“These Division I schools are looking for a guy who’s got a nice frame that they can add weight to when he gets there,” explained New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph, a former North Carolina offensive linemen. “It’s one of those must-haves for big college football players to have that kind of build.”
Coupled with Derheimer’s stature is his speed. His ability to get up to the next level and hammer down on linebackers is something that lineman can struggle with, especially when defenders are faster. But Derheimer does it with ease and turns short-yardage power plays into big-time gains or touchdowns.
“He moves pretty well for a big guy,” Ralph said. “That’s a combination that a lot of schools look for; his size, his growth, his athleticism, and his ability to move well in space makes him pretty attractive to college coaches.”
Derheimer wasn’t always a force on the offensive line. In fact, during his sophomore year he played defensive tackle and helped the Dragons to a 13-1 season and a spot in the semistate game.
When he made the switch to offensive line the following year his speed is what helped set him apart, but his quickness wasn’t something that just happened.
“I definitely worked on my speed because I was terrible at it,” Derheimer said. “With our offensive line coach, we work at getting up to the backer every day, and now it’s really easy for me.”
Always quick to credit those around him, Derheimer said he knows he wouldn’t appear as good in games or on film if it weren’t for his offensive line coaches and the skilled-position players behind him gaining big yards or scores after he lays down a good block.
Yet, even with all of his size and skills, Derheimer’s dreams of playing college football wouldn’t have materialized without his relentless desire to promote himself.
“He really took the initiative on his own to really go after these schools and get himself recognized,” his father said. “We were there to help guide him, but he was the one who contacted coaches and made this all happen.”
While his parents are thrilled he got a full-ride to a Division I school, it’s his capacity to go out and get the things he wants that they said they are most proud of.
It’s that kind of self-determination that his parents and coaches said they believe will make him successful at the next level and in life.
Weight: 270 pounds
School: New Palestine
Position: Left tackle
Jersey: No. 62
Bench: 275 pounds
Squat: 505 pounds
40-yard dash: 5.25 seconds
Favorite song: “House Party” by Sam Hunt
Favorite video game: NCAA Football
If I wasn’t playing football I’d be playing: “Getting better at my golf game.”
Favorite NFL team: Indianapolis Colts