DSU Athletic Hall of Fame

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1973 DSC Trojan Football Team 
(South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference Regular-Season Champions)

1973 Dakota State College Football Team - SDIC Conference Regular-Season ChampionsThe 1973 season was a year to remember for the Dakota State College (DSC) football team and their fans.  The Trojans claimed their first-ever South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (SDIC) conference title in football program history, downing all five SDIC opponents.

A sputtering start by Joel Swisher's 1973 football Trojan ended in a championship flourish and numerous honors.

DSC kicked off the 1973 season losing the first two games against non-SDIC members.  The Trojans played the NAIA's Division II top-ranked team of Northwestern (Iowa) of Orange City, Iowa.  The Trojans fell short by the score of 16-13 when the Red raiders made a 46-yard field goal into the wind.  Dakota State had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown called back on a clipping call.

After losing a 26-7 contest to Bemidji State (Minn.), the Trojans kicked off their SDIC conference season with a hard-fought 21-19 victory over highly-ranked conference foe Huron College.

"That was the first time we had beaten Huron in about seven years," said Al Weisbecker, who was the defensive line coach at the time.  "It was really good to beat a rival school."

Trailing 19-15 with ten minutes and 11 seconds left in the game, Dakota State mounted a comeback by using a combination of rushing and passing to cover 80 yards and give them the game-winning touchdown.  The scoring drive took eight minutes and four seconds to give the Trojans a 21-19 lead.

Co-Captains - Darwin Robinson (Left), Deny Lather (right)Darwin Robinson set a DSC school record for most rushing attempts in the game versus Huron, carrying the ball 46 times for 207 yards.

The Trojans scored 33 straight points in the annual Trojan Day Homecoming game versus the University of South Dakota/Springfield.  DSC went on to defeat the Pointers 33-6, giving DSC a 2-0 start in SDIC conference play.

Swisher, however, wasn't satisfied with his team's offense.  He said as much in post-game comments printed in the game recap in the Madison Daily Leader.

Dakota state traveled to Rapid City to visit another SDIC conference favorite - South Dakota Tech.  Down 21-10 in the third quarter, the Trojans trimmed the Hardrockers' lead to four points (21-17) after a 26-yard touchdown pass from Terry Kasperbauer to Robinson just before the period ended.

The final score of the game came for the Trojans with 9:54 remaining in the fourth quarter when Jeff Rodman led a drive, which took up about five minutes of the fourth quarter.  The Trojans won in a nail-biter over South Dakota Tech by the score of 23-21, putting DSC in the driver's seat for the SDIC championship.

DSC destroyed their long-time rival, the Tigers of Dakota Wesleyan University by the score of 44-14 in Mitchell.  The victory gave the Trojans a 4-0 SDIC conference record.

Against non-loop foe and Swisher's alma mater Northern State at the Trojan Field, the Trojans raced to a 27-0 lead early in the third quarter.  The Wolves stormed back and scored 28 unanswered points to defeat DSC by the score of 28-27.  (The next three years, though, Swisher's Trojans went 3-0 vs. the Wolves.)

DSC clashed with Black Hills State in the SDIC title-clinching game.  Dakota State put on an offensive show against the Yellow Jackets, winning 52-34 to earn DSC's first-ever SDIC football conference title in school history.  The Trojans gained a school record 566 yards of total offense in the game.  In that game, a trio of future DSU Hall of Famers - Robinson, Kasperbauer and Blanks - took charge.

Kasperbauer quarterbacked the game, contributing an 18-for-28 passing game, which amassed 381 yards.  Blanks caught five of Kasperbauer's completions for 149 yards including a 60-yard touchdown bomb near the end of the contest.  Robinson rushed 16 times for 133 yards.

DSC finished the 1973 season with a 25-15 victory over Concordia (Minn.) of St. Paul, a game which saw Robinson rush into the DSU record book.  He carried the ball 21 times for 144 yards, giving him 1,018 yards rushing for the season.  It also was the first time a Trojan running back had eclipsed the 1,000-yards mark in a single season (5.3 yards per carry in 192 rushing attempts).

The win against Concordia gave the Trojans a 6-3 mark, the fourth-best mark in Trojan history at the time.

"We had a lot of hardworking young men," said Deny Lather, one of the squad's linebackers.  "We set down a number of goals and accomplished them through hard work.  As for Coach Swisher, he brought us a lot of football knowledge and the will to move us forward."

He and Robinson were the team's co-captains.  "That was a real honor for the both of us to be named co-captains," added Lather.

The SDIC and NAIA District 12 recognized the '73 Trojans efforts at the end of the season.

Dakota State led in four different categories in five SDIC conference games.  The Trojans led in rushing yards per game (229.4 yards), passing yards per game (182.2 yards), total offense yards per game (411.6 yards) and defense rushing yards per game (86.2 yards).  DSC was second in the SDIC in total defensive yards per game (224.6 yards).

Robinson captured three individual titles while sparking his Trojan teammates to the 1973 SDIC football championship.  In five SDIC conference games, he ran for 726 yards (5.8 yards per carry), scored 36 points (6 touchdowns) and averaged 14.6 punt return yards in five attempts to earn SDIC individual titles.

Robinson was drafted in the eighth round of the National Football League (NFL) by the Washington Redskins.

Dakota State had six players named to the SDIC All-Conference team.  They were Robinson, Wayne Stowell, Blanks, Craig Ebert, Mick Twiss and Lather.  Two Trojans received honorable mention on the team - Bob Casagrande and Kasperbauer.

Swisher was named the NAIA District 12's Coach of the Year.

Dakota State was ranked No. 17 in the final NAIA Division II Football national poll.

Year Inducted Team
2013 1973 Football Team
2012 1999-2000 Women's Basketball Team
2010 1989-1991 Men's Cross Country Team
2007 1977 Football Team
2005 1983-84 Women's Basketball Team
2003 1966-67 Men's Basketball Team
2002 1991-92 NAIA Final Four Team
2001 1971 Boot Hill Bowl- Football

Lawrence Dirks (posthumously) (Football, Class of 1958)

Lawrence DirksLawrence Dirks attended Dakota State (then General Beadle State College) from 1952-54 and played football for the Trojans.  He left college to serve in the Army in 1954, playing football for the Army team in the European conference.  One of his teammates on the Army team was National Football League (NFL) Hall of Famer and Green Bay Packers great Forrest Gregg.  Dirks returned to General Beadle in 1956 and attended through 1958.

While at General Beadle, Dirks was a standout athlete and earned several South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (SDIC) All-Conference awards.  He was offered a tryout with the NFL's Baltimore Colts, but instead he opted to take a position with Otis Elevator Company in Minneapolis and Denver.  He returned to Madison in 1969 where he owned and operated Dirks' Resort on Lake Herman.  He also farmed near there for the remainder of his life.

General Beadle alumnus Bob Nangle (Class of 1961) of Pipestone met Dirks when he was a freshman and Larry was just back from the service.  "He was the starting defensive/offensive tackle," said Nangle.  "I can remember him in the opening minutes of games when opponents ran toward him, he would stop the ball carrier and say, 'son, you are not getting any yards against me, so why don't you make it easy on yourself and run the other way'."  Nangle remembers Dirks as a 'great teammate and a great guy.'

Dirks was a Madison native, and a graduate of General Beadle High School.  In high school, Dirks was one of the only three athletes in GBHS history to be a 12-letterman, meaning he lettered in three varsity sports per year, for each of his four years in high school.  Fellow GBHS 12-letterman John Gross of Madison remembers Dirks as a 'tremendous, aggressive football player and great friend.'  Gross recalled the game GBHS played against Howard on Halloween night in 1949.  At one point, Dirks tipped Howard quarterback's pass into the hands of Gross, who was mistakenly tackled by Dirks' brother Lyle.  Despite the mix-up, GBHS went on to win the game 38-0.  In 1951, Dirks' senior year, the high school football team went undefeated.

The family of Dakota State alumnus Lawrence Dirks set up an endowment in his memory to provide scholarships for Trojan student-athletes.  Harlan J. and Delphia B. Dirks established the Lawrence W. Dirks Memorial Endowed Scholarship.  Harlan, a retired Foregin Service Officer, is Larry's brother and lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Delphia.

Harlan and Delphia Dirks were pleased to honor Larry's memory with the scholarship endowment.  "Although he was the youngest of eight siblings, my brother was larger than life in many ways," said Harlan.  "He was a giant on the football field but found a way to channel that competitive spirit in ways that engaged people and forged life-long friendships.  He also used this same competitive spirit to craft a successful business career."

Harlan and his wife Delphia wanted to do something to acknowledge Larry's career as a Trojan and help others like him who loved the game of football.  "We know that Larry would be proud knowing that this scholarship is also giving young athletes a chance to pursue a college education."

The Lawrence W. Dirks Memorial Endowed Scholarship is awarded to an incoming or returning student who is an NAIA eligible student-athlete on the DSU football team.  The scholarship is renewable provided the student maintains eligibility in accordance with NAIA and DSU academic standards.

Brian Leighton (Football, Class of 1981)

Brian LeightonQuickness!  It's the one word that describes Brian Leighton by anyone associated with him and his career as a football player.  The former Trojan wide receiver is being honored as a member of this year's class of athletic hall of fame inductees.

During Leighton's two NAIA All-District seasons in 1979 and 1980, the fact that Rutland High School's alumnus amassed 56 receptions, 1,273 yards and 15 touchdowns was due to his speed and his athletic prowess.  He led or shared the lead in the number of receptions in those two seasons.  As a senior, he led the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference in kick returns - eight returns for 200 yards.

"What attracted us to Brian was that he was a great all-around athlete," said Gary Buer who was Leighton's head coach at Dakota State his freshman and sophomore seasons (1977 and 1978).  "He had real quickness and great acceleration and could take 'the top' off other teams' defense, which made him a threat at all times."

"Beyond that, he was an outstanding citizen.  He represented Dakota State well both on the field and in the community.  He is most deserving of this year's honor."

As an assistant coach to the late Paul Tanke at Rutland, Ron Swier added, "Indeed, he was quick and fast.  More than that, he was a hard worker who wanted to do well and please his coaches,"

Tanke, a solid performer football Trojan and a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame (2008) who sadly passed away two years ago, played a vital role in Leighton's development as a student-athlete.

"Paul was my main motivator," admitted Leighton.  "He converted me from being a quarterback to a wide receiver.  He also knew the level of talent I had and let m know that I could play beyond that high school level.  He told all of us that we could play better."

With that inspiration, Leighton - a four-year starter - went on to earn All-Conference honors in the old South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (SDIC) in his final three seasons and became a two-time All-District in the NAIA as a junior and senior.  He was named to the NAIA All-American Honorable Mention in 1980.

Leighton was a member of the 1977 DSC Football undefeated football team (10-0 overall record) that captured the SDIC regular-season conference title.  The Trojans added another SDIC regular-season title in 1978, their fifth regular-season title in football program history.  During Leighton's four-year career at Dakota State, the Trojans amassed 30 wins while recording only nine losses.

Leighton was a third of 'The Three Amigos' at Dakota State.  The other two amigos were Leighton's wide receiver teammate Dale Martin and quarterback Brian Jacobsen.

"We were both quick kids - only Leighton was quicker" smiled Martin, now an executive for a nation-wide financial firm.  "The other teams' defensive backs could not keep up with him."

Martin remembers their senior year playing against Northwestern Red Raiders of Orange City, Iowa.

"We both had touchdown catches in that game.  Brian's touchdown reception, however, was an 80-yard bomb from 'Jake' which won the game," added Martin.

"Brian always wanted to get a play in which he could score," said Jacobsen, who is now a part of special education group which serve northeast South Dakota schools, including the Hamlin School District.

"He worked hard in practices, but he really wanted to shine on game day.  He was always the fastest guy on the field, and he wanted to prove it."

One of those shining moments - the one that sticks in Leighton's memory - came in the Trojan Days game in 1978.

"We were trailing Dakota Wesleyan late in the game," said Leighton.  "Jake and I hooked up for a 70-yard strike fro the game's final score."  The Trojans defeated DWU 12-9.

"He (Jacobsen) always had a strong arm and he could toss the ball a long ways," he added.  "I just had to run down the field and get under those balls and catch them.  Most of the time the two of us were on the same page."

These days Leighton is an agri-businessman in the Madison area.  He is married to the former Kelli Remacle of Howard.  Their children include two sons - Riley (17 years old) and Mason (14) and a daughter, Kendra (11).  Leighton also has two other sons - Tyler (29) and Jordan (26).

Dr. Joel Swisher (posthumously) (Football, Head Coach)

Dr. Joel SwisherDr. Joel Swisher's four-year run which began with the 1973 season, set in motion a string of South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (SDIC) titles for the football Trojans.  From 1973 to 1976, his Trojans amassed three SDIC conference championships and a 26-12-1 overall record.

Unfortunately for football, Swisher's head coaching career (which spanned from 1976 to 2005) ended on Feb. 17, 2005 in Rochester, Minn., when he died from complications from a massive heart attack.

Swisher, who was 56 years old at the time of his death; literally-speaking, was born into the coaching profession.  He was the son of Clark Swisher, the long-time coach of the Northern State Wolves, and his mother Doris.

Austin Swisher accepted the Hall of Fame award at the banquet with Tom Farrell as the presenter.He overcame polio as a child.

Swisher received his bachelor's degree in biology and physical education at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D.  He earned his master's degree in kinesiology and exercise physiology at South Dakota State in Brookings, and his Ph.D. in health education at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City.

He began his coaching career at Doane College in Crete, Neb., and then held a number of coaching positions, including Dakota State, Augustana College in Sioux Falls, Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., and Jamestown College in Jamestown, N.D., before arriving in Rochester, Minn., in 1995 to coach and teach at Rochester Community & Technical College.  His RCTC Yellowjackets produced five state community college championships.

During his coaching era at Dakota State College, Swisher amassed a 16-4 SDIC conference record.  He guided his 1973 DSC Football team to their first-ever SDIC conference title in football history.  In 1976, the Trojans were ranked No. 9 in the final NAIA Division II Football national poll and broke 23 different school records, including four team records.  Dakota State produced three NAIA Football All-American athletes during Swisher's four-year coaching career (Darwin Robinson, Toney Blanks and Jeff Rodman)>  The Trojans had 13 different SDIC All-Conference selections, while three athletes were named to All-Conference three times (Rodman, Blanks and Casagrande).

"He was a tremendous recruiter," said Al Weisbecker, who was Swisher's defensive coordinator at Dakota State.  "I asked Mike Freidel (a former DSU All-American), how he wound up at Dakota State.  In a word, he said 'Swisher'."He was an awesome offensive coach," added Weisbecker.  "Swisher was able to see the defensive weaknesses of the other team, and his teams always played hard.  It was quite an accomplishment for his Trojans to beat his alma mater Northern State three out of the four years he was at Dakota State!"

For Lee Threadgold, a tight end who played for Swisher, he was special.

"We weren't really outstanding athletes, but he spotted things within us that brought the best in all of us," said Threadgold.  "He made us work hard in practice and worked harder in ballgames.  He saw us improve throughout the year.  It was real joy for me and Mark Merrigan to run in plays from the sidelines for Dr. Swisher."

At the time of his death, he was survived by his parents, his wife Susan, a son Austin, a daughter, Nicole and two stepsons, Todd and Tyler Despins.  He was also survived by three brothers, Clark, Steve and Dan and two sisters, Wendy and Rebecca.  He was preceded in death by two brothers, Kim and John.

Year Inducted Name
2013 Lawrence Dirks (posthumously) '58
2013 Brian Leighton '81
2013 Dr. Joel Swisher (posthumously)
2012 Maureen Casey Green (posthumously) '82
2012 Dawn Gaffney Dittman '98, '03, '12
2012 Dan Stratton '76
2011 Bob Casagrande '75
2011 Terry Kasperbauer '77
2011 Kent Kersten '73
2011 Marie Sample '98
2011 Rob Van Laecken '74
2010 Gene Appelwick '61
2010 Amy Crissinger '91
2010 Connie (Robinson) Nyhaug '78
2010 Al Weisbecker
2009 Joyce Farrell '70
2009 Tom Farrell '70
2009 Anthony 'Toney' Blanks '75
2009 Richard 'Dick' Anderson '63
2009 Lee Moran
2009 Phil Dobbs '66
2008 Tom Orton '69
2008 Simon Schloe '68
2008 Brett Schwartz '91
2008 Paul Tanke '68
2007 Fred Tibbetts, '72
2007 Gene Danielsen, '68
2007 Linda Collignon, '78
2006 LeMar Nelson, '54
2006 Dr. Judy Dittman
2006 John Collignon, '70
2006 Danny Barker, '56
2005 Tom Schlimgen, '74
2005 Kevin Berg, '79
2005 Adam Clark, '88
2005 Lynne Warwick, '85
2003 Suzanne LaMaack (Allard), '80
2003 Maury Poppen, '59
2003 John "Cal" Mathison Posthumously, '51
2003 Rick Fisher, '68
2002 Bob Rumrill, '59
2002 Ray Riley, '67
2002 Gary Munsen, '66
2002 Lori Coble, '80
2001 Merle "Pete" Struwe, '51
2001 Monique Nelson (Reed), '86
2001 Dick Miller, '59
2001 Eldor "Lars" Larson, '52
2000 Michael Freidel, '79
2000 Patricia Murphy, '90
2000 Julie Heinz Johnson, '90
2000 Rick Dunlap, '87
1999 Pauline Tulson, '67
1999 Bill Larsen, '72
1999 Bob Nangle, '61
1999 Julie Fiegen-Price, '86
1998 Daryl Fletcher, '73
1998 Joe Iosco, '50
1998 Susan Halsted Simon, '68
1998 Deb Boomsma, '80
1997 Lee Stoddard, '68
1997 Donna Kruggel Matti, '75
1997 LeRoy DeBeer, '63
1997 Bob Bennett, '72
1996 Monica Matthies-Severson, '85
1996 Sally Kirkegaard-Wiggins, '74
1996 George Blankley
1996 Clifford Anderson, '73
1995 Thomas Shea, '72
1995 Jeffery Rodman, '77
1995 Darwin Robinson, '74
1995 Myron Moen, '67
1995 Ed Harter
1995 David Gassman, '71
1995 Robert Caselli '51
1995 William Bulfer Posthumously
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