CRESTON, Iowa — He started his sophomore year by diving for the pylon on a two-point overtime run that sent his school to the UNI-Dome for the first time with a 50-49 victory.
He followed that by going 31-0 in wrestling and winning a Class 2-A state title at 160 pounds.
So how did senior Chase Shiltz of Creston/Orient-Macksburg end that sophomore year? By traveling to Guatemala for a week with a church group, exposing himself to the pain of living in a third-world country and meeting his 8-year-old friend, Noe.
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Shiltz might be, pound for pound, Iowa’s best high school football player. In two-and-a-half seasons, he has rushed for 4,563 yards and 73 touchdowns.
In a 70-49 Week 3 win over Harlan Community — the state’s most successful program — Shiltz accounted for eight touchdowns in five ways: He ran 28 times for 307 yards and four scores, caught a 38-yard pass, returned a kickoff 90 yards, threw a pass for 6 and returned a fumble for 18.
If you didn’t know him, his coaches say you wouldn’t be able to scan the Creston hallways and pick him out.
“He hangs out with a diverse group of kids,” Creston/O-M football coach Brian Morrison said. “He’s the type of kid that will tell every teacher ‘hi’ in the hallway. Very polite. You won’t ever hear him talk about his accomplishments.”
Added wrestling coach Darrell Frain, a football assistant: “He’s that kid that can be with any group. It doesn’t matter if you’re band, drama, athlete.”
Shiltz’s ability to play through pain is almost legendary. In 2014, with that first-ever trip to the UNI-Dome on the line against Dallas Center-Grimes, Shiltz took a second-quarter screen pass, was hit immediately in the knee and knew something was wrong. It turned out to be a torn meniscus. He returned and completed a 28-carry, 158-yard, two-TD night in the Panthers’ landmark victory.
Last year in a first-round playoff game with Harlan, Shiltz took a facemask to the hand on the first drive. It turned out to be a broken knuckle and pinkie finger. He returned and carried 48 times for 370 yards and four scores as Creston upset the Cyclones 34-11.
“Sometimes you’re going to have to go through a little bit of pain, but in the end I think it was definitely worth it,” Shiltz said.
The son of John and Dorie Shiltz saw plenty of pain in the spring of 2015 when he joined a group of about a dozen church members on a mission trip to Guatemala. He had watched videos of past trips, but nothing could prepare him for the dire living conditions he encountered.
“It’s a whole different experience once you go down there and you actually see in their eyes what they live in,’’ he said. “It’s something that you’ll never forget.’’
He met a young boy named Noe, and they quickly bonded. The family decided to sponsor Noe, and they communicate with him once or twice a month and also send care packages.
“They send us pictures and stuff of how he’s doing,’’ Shiltz said. “Every time you read one of them it just makes you smile.’’
Even though he has a slightly smaller frame, Shiltz reminds Morrison of former Decorah four-sport star Josey Jewell, who had no FBS offers until two weeks before signing day, when Iowa stepped forward. He’s now an All-Big Ten linebacker.
Like Jewell, Shiltz doesn’t have the “measurables’’ college coaches covet, and it appears Shiltz’s football career is about over. The two-time state champion has committed to wrestle at North Dakota State.
“I never really was recruited very hard in football, as much as I was in wrestling,” said Shiltz, who plays outside linebacker and safety on defense. “That’s kind of what made my decision to wrestle.”
A 3.4 student, Shiltz isn’t going to waste time worrying why he didn’t impress more college football coaches. He doesn’t like to waste time, period. He’s also played three years of baseball, two years of soccer and run one year of track. He was in the school play for two years.
“I just have a lot of fun hanging out with my teammates,’’ Shiltz said. “It’s your high school career and you should enjoy it.’’
Shiltz didn’t get around to telling Noe that he was a football and wrestling star back home. Most important were the things Noe taught Shiltz.
“We take everything for granted, compared to what they have down there,’’ he said. “That’s kind of what I learned, not to take stuff for granted and take advantage of everything you’ve got.’’