When Michael Dunn became a nose guard in sixth grade, it made a lot of sense. He was bigger than his teammates back then.
When Urbana High School won state championships in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2010, it made a lot of sense. The Hawks were undefeated each season.
Now, who cares what makes sense? Definitely not Urbana.
The Hawks (9-3) have more losses than any team still playing for the 3A title and they're doing it with a 5-foot-8, 190-pound nose guard.
“The leadership that Mikey provides has filtered all the way down through the team,” Urbana coach Ryan Hines said. “Just put your head down, do you your job, play your technique and things will work out right.”
After about only one season at nose guard, Dunn lost his size advantage. Entering high school, coaches told him he'd probably have to switch positions because he lacked the proper stature for nose guard.
“I pretty much told them, 'That's alright. I like a good challenge and I'll see how I can do,'” Dunn said.
Dunn, relying on technique and motor, has done just fine. He turned in an excellent game against Seneca Valley High School in the 3A West Region championship game, frequently breaking through the line to cause trouble in the backfield.
How does he get by with such a small frame? It helps that he squats 525 pounds.
“I have a lot of power behind me,” Dunn said. “It's really hard to take me down.
“A lot of teams have overlooked me, thinking, 'Oh, he's small. We can blow him out of the water and everything.' Once game comes around, they're a little bit shocked about how my size doesn't really matter and how I can keep in there with all the big guys.”
Hines, who played offensive line at McDaniel College, knows what type of matchup difficulties Dunn can present.
“It's one of the hardest things to block a kid that's a little bit smaller than you, but just as strong and quicker,” Hines said. “The small, quick guys, you make a step to block them, and they're gone.”
Dunn planned to move to linebacker before this season, but when J.D. Baker transferred to Urbana, plans changed. Baker was a natural fit at linebacker, so Dunn happily moved back to nose guard, his favorite position.
“I just love the love competition ... really going into the grind of everything — trench warfare,” said Dunn, who also plays fullback.
Dunn thinks this probably the end of his career at nose guard, as his size will finally actually catch up to him. He's received interest from Susquehanna University and Shenandoah University and he believes he could be a Division III linebacker or fullback or maybe even a Division II long snapper.
But, for now, he's just enjoying playing nose guard during Urbana's unexpected playoff run.
“A lot of the teams underestimated us and I think we really proved ourselves,” Dunn said. “Because our team's not really the biggest out there, but we have the technique and the speed.”