Even though he grew up in Chesterton, Devin Kludt had an insight into Portage football that preceded his arrival as a freshman.
His step dad, Ed Rael, played for the Indians alongside coach Wally McCormack and is an assistant on McCormack's staff.
"He showed me the way Portage football is played," Kludt said, "how they're all a bunch of little, scrappy guys fighting their hardest."
At 185 pounds, Kludt isn't exactly little. Then again, when you consider he played nose tackle as a junior and sees time now at defensive end, he's no behemoth by comparison either.
"I've never been the biggest or fastest guy," Kludt said. "But I've always had a lot of desire to make the play, to run to the ball."
It's a quality McCormack noticed both as an informed observer last season and as the guy in charge now.
"He's a 'tweener,' size-wise," McCormack said. "He could be a linebacker-tight end, but he was so smart and trustworthy (former coach) Jeromy (Flowers) put him on the line on passing downs and put his hand on the ground. He's a tough kid who plays hard, but he was kind of an enigma as to what to do with him, put him up or put him down."
Ultimately, McCormack settled somewhere in between. Kludt, who grew as a linebacker, primarily plays outside linebacker, but steps up to defensive end in certain formations.
"We were reeling on defense early. We weren't really sure what we were trying to do," McCormack said. "Now we've settled in to what we're going to be. Devin's athletic enough to back off and play linebacker and physical enough to come up and play end. He's a great kid who's coming into his own as a player."
Kludt, who grew playing linebacker, enjoys his hybrid role. Then again, he'd be happy anywhere on the field.
"First of all, I love defense," he said. "Wherever they need me to play, I'll play. I'll try to do anything I can to help the team. (Knowing multiple positions) helps that I can see all sides of the field. The great thing about it is I can walk up to the line and play nine or six (outside shade) technique."
McCormack said Kludt, who wears Rael's old number, 42, was 'unbelievable' against Chesterton's outside zone plays last week. The Indians held the high-powered Trojans to a season-low in yards and offensive touchdowns (two), but came up short of an upset, falling 24-17.
"We were still figuring stuff out at the beginning," Kludt said. "A few guys got the defense together and said we have to take a stand here, Everybody is saying our defense is a joke. We've got to prove them wrong. Chesterton was the right week to show up. It was a big measuring stick."
Not a single kid on the team loves Portage football more than Kludt, according to McCormack. It's high praise that he takes to heart.
"I've never missed practice. I've never missed weights," he said. "My freshman year, I'd never touched a weight. My sophomore year, my bench press was 165 pounds. Now it's 285. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's worth it to play on Friday night."