- Amanda Allen/Daily
By Nate Clark, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 28, 2015
Long before Derek Sievers was a shot put standout for the Michigan men’s track team, he hoped to make a name for himself on the gridiron.
He spent three years as a starting fullback on the football team at Byron Center (Michigan) High School.
He has won the shot put four times in his collegiate career, including victories at the Simmons-Harvey Invitational on Jan. 17 and against Michigan State on Jan. 24. He also finished 15th at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships and seventh at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in the event.
“The shot put event happens so fast,” Sievers said. “You have to clear your mind and use the nervous energy to your advantage.”
While it sounds funny to call the shot put a fast-paced event, the rapid motions it requires are fitting for Sievers.
At Byron Center, Sievers amassed 2,212 yards on 340 carries. During his junior year, he notched 769 yards on 133 carries and nine rushing touchdowns despite sharing duties with another running back.
But Sievers truly demonstrated his prowess his senior year, when he collected 1,157 yards on 147 carries, equating to 7.9 yards per carry. It was a performance that won him All-Area and All-State honors. Sievers even added 13 rushing touchdowns for good measure while sharing the job yet again.
Yet even with his success as a running back, Sievers always considered himself first and foremost an offensive lineman, a position he had played since his pee-wee football years.
“If you run the ball, you get hit,” Sievers said. “If you’re blocking someone, you get to hit them.”
Perhaps it was a way of bonding with his father, who played football at Southeast Missouri State from 1982 to 1986 as an offensive lineman.
“My dad was my pee-wee coach all the way up through eighth grade,” Sievers said. “We’d always practice in the backyard and stuff. He instilled in me that you can either be the hammer or the nail, and you don’t want to be the nail.”
Or maybe it was a way of keeping up with his brother, who took delight in pushing him around. The sibling rivalry soon translated into skills as a linebacker. Sievers finished 2009 with 79 tackles, three recovered fumbles and three catches for interceptions.
“It was pretty intense between my brother and me until I outgrew him in ninth grade,” Sievers said.
Sievers was also the punter for Byron Central for all three seasons of his career, averaging 34.3 yards per punt in that stretch. He even dabbled in the long snapper position for a time as well.
As if all of that weren’t enough, Sievers took part in wrestling and bowling during the winter months.
“I was just trying to live my high-school sporting career out,” Sievers said. “I didn’t really focus on one thing. Bowling was awesome because I got free bowling all the time.”
But Sievers’ other sports did not detract from his track and field performance. In both his junior and senior seasons, he earned All-State honors in both the shot put and discus events and won the Division II state championship in the discus. It rubbed off on the rest of the team as Byron Central won the Division II team title in 2010 and 2011.
“Track was the best overall experience for me,” Sievers said. “That’s why I continue to do it today.”
Even with all of his success, he was largely overlooked on the recruiting trail for both football and track. But once Michigan called, there were no more decisions to make.
“No one really recruited me out of high school for track,” Sievers said. “And football was mostly Division II and Division III schools. Michigan came along at the very end of my senior season and my mom said, ‘If you can go to Michigan, you’re gonna go to Michigan.’ ”
Still, Sievers gets a kick out of football even though his playing days are done. He is a denizen of Michigan Stadium on football Saturdays and regards those days as some of his best in Ann Arbor.
While Sievers may be a shot put star, football will always be a part of him.