The Advance-Titan

The Long Road Back

On a team that revolves its philosophy around the idea of being selfless individuals, UW Oshkosh senior running back Dylan Hecker considers himself to be no more important than any of the 20 seniors on the 2017 roster. However, as he approaches the last few games of his final regular season, it cannot be denied that his career in the black and gold has helped set the standard of the program for years to come.

Earning varsity letters his past three seasons, and on his way to his fourth, Hecker has played in more than 30 games, only five of them not as a starter. He has more than 3,000 career yards and sits as the highest-scoring Titan in history with over 50 touchdowns.

Despite his previous and ongoing successes, Hecker’s impressive athletic career stems back to his high school days where he was a three-sport athlete at Winneconne High School. While playing baseball, basketball and football, Hecker earned 10 varsity letters combined during his high school career.

With four of his letters coming from basketball, two in baseball and four in football, Hecker qualified to play in the 2013 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star Game.

After graduation from Winneconne in 2013, Hecker began his first season as a Titan during the 2014 season.

“I was fortunate enough to play right away my freshman year,” Hecker said. “I’ve been here a long time, just like Brett [Kasper], Sam [Mentkowski] and so have a couple other guys. It’s been great. I just can’t believe it’s my senior year already.”

In his freshman season at UWO Hecker started seven out of the eight games he played. By the end of his first season he lead the team with 54 points on nine rushing touchdowns and 102 carries for 489 yards. His accomplishments led him to make the All-WIAC Second Team.

Fellow 2014 freshman recruit and now starting quarterback for the Titans Brett Kasper said, despite competing for the quarterback position at freshman tryouts, him and Hecker have created a strong bond throughout their time together.

“We came in not as competitors; we were still teammates, but we were competing for the quarterback job,” Kasper said. “He came in as a quarterback, too, and they found a little better fit for him at running back. So from day one we were building that chemistry right away and it still holds true today.”

Hecker’s freshman accomplishments were only the beginning. Finishing his sophomore season in 2015 on the All-WIAC First Team, Hecker led the Titans with 171 rushes for 963 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. He also managed to have one receiving touchdown and two passing touchdowns.

Starting in all 12 games Hecker played in, it was in the 2015 season that the Titans managed to win the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and make it to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA D-III playoffs. It was in that game the Titans lost to UW-Whitewater by a score of 31-29.

Hecker said his success did not just come to him, it was something he works hard for. However, as hard as he works as an individual, Hecker said having a team that works hard together is the real difference maker.

“That’s something I take pride in, is working hard,” Hecker said. “Talent can only take you so far, especially at this level. So things like getting your lift in, going to rehab and treating your body right are things I take pride in. I like to see it pay off in the field but I’m not very selfish. I would much rather get the win as a team.

It is nice to see hard work pay off too, but I think I speak for a lot of the guys here. We all work very hard, and it’s good to see us having success.”

The following year proved to be historic, not only for Hecker but for the UWO football program as a whole as the Titans made it to their first-ever Stagg Bowl Championship.

Despite coming up short of the D-III National Championship by a score of 10-7, the year as a whole was full of accomplishments, and for Hecker, that included starting nine of the 13 games he played in, rushing for 1,142 yards in 187 rushes and having a total of 17 touchdowns.

For the second year in a row, Hecker made the All-WIAC First Team.

Five games into his senior season, Hecker has a total of 608 yards for nine touchdowns and averages 121.5 yards per game.

With much of the season remaining, Hecker said he is taking in every moment that remains because before he knows it, he will have stepped on the field as a Titan for the last time.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” Hecker said. “I look forward to every practice and lift. I think two years ago I would have been like, ‘Aw man I have to go to lifting or I gotta go to practice,’ but now I just cherish it and enjoy it. In only a couple months now it’s going to all be over. It’s crazy to think about, but I’m just living every day of it.”

Along with Hecker cherishing his final moments as a Titan, fellow teammate Kasper is taking in the time they have together as well and says that the bond they have made over the years is something very real.

“We have a strong relationship,” Kasper said. “We were roommates freshman year and we’re roommates now at our house. Obviously off the field we have a strong relationship too.”

Titans head coach Pat Cerroni said Hecker has been fun to watch and he is truly leaving his mark on the program, but Cerroni also acknowledges that he is not done just yet.

“It’s hard to talk about it right now because we’re right in the middle of it but his legacy will be remembered,” Cerroni said. “He is a beast. He is pretty special, but we are not done yet. Let’s just say this about Dylan, I think you’ve [seen] a little bit of what he can actually become and that’s really how we’re looking at it.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
The Long Road Back