ALMA — Bryan Shagena started his post-high school football career protecting the quarterback at Alma College.
But when the 2007 Deckerville graduate played his final game for the Scots a few weeks ago, he was instead pursuing the opponent’s quarterback.
“I found out after my freshman year of playing offensive line that my talents would be much better suited toward playing defensive line, where my size and ability to throw a devastating punch would put me in the position to be able to make a lot of plays,” Shagena said.
“Playing defensive line in a 4-3 scheme is fairly similar in terms of technique to playing offensive line in a power running formation. The simple difference is holding at the point of attack for a split second and then getting off a block, instead of staying on a block and driving someone downfield, and then pursuing to the football.”
Shagena did plenty of pursuing this season for the Scots. Starting all 10 games, the 6-foot-2, 290 pounder recorded 20 solo tackles, including nine for loss and 2 1/2 sacks. He also had a pass breakup, a pass deflection, was selected captain for two games, and was chosen defensive player of the week after Alma’s Oct. 2 contest with Hope College.
Alma finished the season 3-7 overall.
“I was very happy with my senior season,” Shagena said. “My individual stats were even better than I hoped for coming into the season.
“My games against Hope and Olivet my senior year stand out the most for me because they were my best individual games statistically and they are both two of Alma’s biggest rivals.”
In his four years at Alma, Shagena has become a sort of student of the game, especially at his position on the defensive line.
“The biggest change for me has been mastering the overall technique that a defensive lineman is taught to carry out from the snap of the ball until the end of the play,” he explained. “There is a series of steps that a defensive lineman goes through, and the faster you can complete that process the better opportunity you will have to make not just a good play, but a great play...”
Shagena said that he’s gone up against bigger offensive linemen, but bigger doesn’t always mean stronger.
“Getting out of my stance low, throwing my hands out to defeat a block, and then collapsing down the line of scrimmage are all steps I go through every snap that will ensure my opportunity to be in the best position to make a football play,” he said.
“As a sophomore, it would take probably three seconds for that whole process to take place. But through off-season training to develop better footspeed and lateral quickness, I was able to speed up that entire process by half-a-second. This allowed me to transition from making a tackle for no gain or a gain of one yard to all the tackles for loss I had this year.”
At Deckerville, Shagena earned All-State offensive line honors in 2006 and 2007. And while he had other offers, there was never a doubt where he was going to college.
“Alma offered me a small school atmosphere with big time academic credentials, which is what I wanted right from the start,” he said. “Even if I hadn’t have played college football, I still would have attended Alma because of the extremely diverse and well rounded education I received in the health sciences department. I was brought into a football environment where I could contribute right away and get the most out of my four years, which I was absolutely able to do.”
Shagena has sound advice for any Thumb athlete who is interested in playing football in college.
“If you are interested in playing college football, it is important to let your high school coach know about it so they can go through the initial process of releasing names of players and film,” he said. “Film is the most crucial part of any player evaluation by a college coach. And if they are able to watch your film and they like what they see, then you have the opportunity of being recruited...
“There are ‘no cut policies’ in place for a lot of Division III schools, so showing up to any team function is within the rules. But just remember that if you aren’t up to the skill level with the rest of the players it will show in practice and you will probably find out sooner rather than later if you are capable of contributing...”
Shagena is grateful for the support he received from his family and friends during his time at Alma.
“I would like to thank all of my high school and college coaches for giving me the opportunity to make a lot of great football memories while developing a lot of good relationships along the way,” he said. “I would also especially like to thank my parents, my girlfriend Kelsey, and my grandparents for all their love and support throughout the last four years.”
Shagena is the son of Doug and Suzanne Shagena of Deckerville.