BOZEMAN — Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis capped his spectacular senior season in fitting fashion Monday, when The Sports Network named him the Buck Buchanan Award winner as the top defensive player in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, the magnitude of it, but the Buchanan Award is a great honor,” Schreibeis said. “I’m proud and humbled. I’ll always remember the friendships I made here at MSU, laughing and joking with Coach (Bo) Beck and the guys in the meeting room, lining up and working hard for the same goal next to those guys. Coach Beck has made this fun, and Coach Ash has been great. I’m proud that I played for Montana State.”
Monday’s honor gives Schreibeis a special place in Bobcat lore. He becomes the first recipient of a major national individual award in program history, and also gives the Big Sky Conference its fourth Buchanan winner in the last six years and its fifth in the last decade.
“I think this award is a fabulous testimony to Caleb’s work ethic and his determination,” said Montana State Head Coach Rob Ash. “He came here as a walk-on and had to fight and scratch and claw for every bit of playing time he got, gradually earning scholarship money, winning a starting job, and becoming one of the best players in the country. This is a tremendous story.”
The Billings West product’s 2012 season was one of the finest in school history. Schreibeis (6-3, 252 lbs) helped lead the team to 11 wins as a co-captain, setting a school record by forcing eight fumbles. That total led the FCS, was the highest total in Division I, and was matched by only two players in NCAA football in 2012 (Chad McGraw of Colorado Mines and Ernest Wiggins of Division III Husson also each compiled eight).
“It’s not by accident,” Ash said of Schreibeis’ signature statistic, the forced fumble. “He’s a relentless competitor, but he’s also smart. He always plays with his brain working, so he can do his assignment, stay in his gap, go make his tackle, and still remember to get the ball out. It’s intentional, it’s not just lucky. He’s constantly thinking about ripping the ball out.”
While Schreibeis’ calling card was his ability to knock the ball loose, he was hardly one-dimensional. Schreibeis recorded 12.5 sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss lead the Big Sky, and he also hurried the quarterback seven times and broke up four passes. Schreibeis logged 59 tackles, including 16 against Montana.
Schreibeis’ career stands as a testimony to hard work and as a metaphor for his relentless play on the field. He joined the Bobcat program as a recruited walk-on in 2008, “before we had any (championship) rings, before we had wins over the Griz,” Ash said. He followed his brother Joe to Bozeman, and one of his memorable early-career moments involved both players.
On a kickoff against the University of South Dakota in the first quarter of a 2009 MSU win at Bobcat Stadium, Joe Schreibeis caused a fumble that his brother recovered. The play set up an MSU touchdown that gave the team a 14-0 lead in a game which ended 31-24.
“That’s definitely one of my favorite memories,” Caleb Schreibeis recalls.
Schreibeis also blocked a punt at Portland State as a redshirt freshman in 2009. That play came late in the first quarter with MSU holding a 7-0 lead, resulting in a touchdown when Tanner Ripley recovered the ball in the end zone, and boosted MSU to a 28-10 win.
“Special teams are an important part of our program,” Ash said, “not just because of its impact on individual games but because of the opportunity it presents each player. When a young player performs well and produces on special teams he gives us an indication of how he can produce in more expanded roles. Like many of our players, Caleb took great advantage of his opportunity on special teams.”
Schreibeis logged seven tackles in 2009 and enjoyed an expanded role playing from the line-of-scrimmage in 2010. As a junior in 2011, Schreibeis landed a starting role and his productivity exploded. He logged 65 tackles, third on the team and most among defensive linemen, with 11 tackles-for-loss. He also recorded seven sacks, third-most on the team, while hurrying the quarterback six times, breakup up two passes, and recovering a fumble.
If becoming MSU’s first Buchanan Award winner isn’t enough to cement Schreibeis’ legend, his presence in the Bobcat record book is. Schreibeis’ eight forced fumbles this season is not only a school single-season record, it is more than any other Bobcat has caused in a career. He shares the school record with two forced in a game, as well. Schreibeis’ 12.5 sacks as a senior is tied for the fifth-best season in school history, and his 23 career sacks in eighth.
Still, sacks and records – and even awards – isn’t how Ash will remember Schreibeis. “Caleb became a better leader every year he was in the program,” Ash said. “Initially he was focused on his own situation, like a lot of guys, trying to prove to us that he could play, trying to prove to us that he deserved to be on scholarship. Once he became a starter he began to see that he was a leader. He was definitely a leader by example. He was always the first player in line in defensive line drills, trying to set the tone. Once he became a team captain his leadership became more outward, and he just continued to grow as a leader and as a player, lifting everyone up around him.”
While the memory of stats and awards may fade, Schreibeis said memories of relationships with teammates and coaches won’t. “I’ll remember the friendships,” he said. “I’ll remember the D-line meetings, and Coach Beck laughing and joking around. I’ll remember working hard next to those guys for the same goal. I just don’t think that’s repeatable anywhere else in life.That’s what I’m going to miss, and that’s why it’s hard to graduate and move on, because I know I’ll never have what I had here. So that is the number one thing I’ll remember.”
While the Buchanan Award stands as a permanent testimony to Schreibeis’ senior season, his legacy is something quite different to the head coach who recruited and developed him. “I think his legacy will be as one of the greatest workers we’ve ever had here. Caleb went at full speed all of the time, year round, at literally every single workout in the weight room, every early morning run in January. I don’t think he ever missed a practice, hardly ever missed a rep in practice, he went full speed every single time. For the people in our program, that’s how he’ll be remembered.”
— MSU Sports Information