The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Pittsburg State Sports

November 9, 2013

Pitt State's Uzzel a versatile, 'calculated' defender

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Joe Uzzel comes across as a man not to be messed with.

The long hair, beard and unmistakable functional strength give him the presence of a Sons of Anarchy cast member.

Combine that with a seemingly quiet, unassuming demeanor and the Pittsburg State senior defensive end gives off the vibe of someone to be polite toward.

“I’d say Joe is a pretty calculated person,” Pitt State defensive line coach Ryan Hellwig said. “I’d say in some regards he comes across as quiet and reserved, but he’s a very calculated young man.

“On the field, obviously, he plays very physical and he’s a high motor guy. That’s not necessarily his personality off the field.”

How does Uzzel feel about that description?

“If that’s coming from him, I would agree,” he said. “I trust his judgment.

“I try to have as much fun as I can with the guys, but when it comes to interaction with coaches, it’s all business. I try to get the most out of what they have to tell me.”

Uzzel, in his sixth year in the Pitt State program, has become one of the Gorillas’ most consistent and versatile defenders.

He saw action in every game as a freshman and sophomore, including PSU’s run to the 2011 national title. He then started all 10 games as a junior in 2012.

Uzzel, as a defensive end, usually lines up against the tight end, but he sometimes moves down and faces the offensive tackle.

“And there are times in our three-man front that he is head-up on the center,” Hellwig said. “He has that kind of power and explosiveness where he can play both inside and outside. He’s very versatile in that regard.”

Uzzel says the key to that versatility is powerful hips and good hand work, something he learned during his first two years of high school football at Tulsa’s Lincoln Christian, when he was coached on the defensive line by Dennis Byrd, the former New York Jets defensive end known for his career-ending neck injury in 1992.

“That was really where I learned to use my hands and play like that,” he said, adding that he learned much more at Lincoln Christian. “Everything there is you do this, this and this exactly right or you don’t do it at all. A lot of the work ethic and the foundation of the things that I’ve built on here started there with the coaches.”

Uzzel, at 6-foot-4, said he arrived at Pittsburg State weighing “about 215” pounds. He’s now listed at 233 pounds.

“Focus on your power lifts. I think one of the biggest things that translates onto the football field is power clean,” he said of his training. “That takes a decent squat, but a lot of that comes from the hips. If you put a lot of work into that and try to get that weight up, you can translate that onto the field.”

Uzzel knows he is guaranteed just two more games in a Pittsburg State uniform and being one of the team’s older and more experienced players gives him a clear understanding of the importance of making a postseason run.

“It makes the day-to-day things really easy,” he said of being a veteran on the team. “But I also have the burden of knowing how important this program is to the community and how big of a deal it really is.

“When you show up at Pitt State, you expect to win and you expect to do some good things as far as postseason. There is no other option but to win.”

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