BECKER — Dillon Radunz said his father moved to Becker when he was in first grade because he wanted his son to play in a good football program.
When his father passed away six years ago, the dream didn’t die.
“His goal for me was to make my dream come true of playing for a state championship,” Radunz said of his father, Jeff, who died of a heart attack. “That was one of the reasons why we moved to Becker.”
Actually, the dream came true twice for Radunz and his teammates. Becker won its second straight state Class 4A title this season and has a 25-game winning streak.
One of the big reasons for that is Radunz. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end and offensive tackle has been named the Times All-Area Football Player of the Year.
Radunz heads a 24-player team selected by the Times’ sports staff with input from area coaches.
He’s one of five Becker Bulldogs on the team, including quarterback Andrew Stanger, wide receiver Alex Meidt, offensive lineman Casey Vesledahl and linebacker Beau Pauly.
Also on the squad are Rocori’s Jacob Erkens, Nick Skluzacek, Nathan Thorpe and Nick Warne.
Pierz’s David Skiba, Michael Meyer and Noah Boser made the team, as did St. Cloud Tech’s Chris Backes and Brevyn Spann-Ford, Sartell’s Logan Anding and Jacob Lieberg, Sauk Rapids’ Richard Carriveau and Matt Johnson and Albany’s Taylor Fourre and Danny Odenthal.
Rounding out the squad are Upsala/Swanville Area’s Kyle Lange, Melrose’s Zack Pierskalla and Paynesville’s Grant Thompson.
Radunz is the only member of the group so far who has committed to a Division I college. He verbally committed to North Dakota State after considering an offer from Wyoming.
“I chose North Dakota State mostly because of Coach (Connor) Riley (the Bison’s offensive line coach),” Radunz said. “I like the way he coaches.
“It’s the way I like to be coached. He’s friendly. He doesn’t yell. He’s a great guy. Coach (Chris) Klieman (the Bison’s head coach) is a great guy, too. He calls all the time, at least twice a week. He makes you feel like you’re like a family.”
His family the past six years has mostly involved people associated with Becker athletics. He also plays basketball and took sixth in the shot put last June at the state Class 2A track and field championships in St. Paul.
Becker head coach Dwight Lundeen said that Radunz might be the best player he has coached and that’s saying something. Former Becker great Matt Veldman, a past Times’ Player of the Year, played in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
“I could see him playing on Sundays someday,” Lundeen said. “I have no doubt in my mind.”
Radunz has been dominant the past two seasons. Lundeen said he improved dramatically the second half of his junior year.
Opponents make it a point to know where he is defensively and go the other way. He still wound up his career with 99 solo and 64 assisted tackles, including 14 quarterback sacks.
Offensively, he was a dominant lineman, a very good blocker who helped lead a team that rushed for 3,091 yards and passes for 2,251 yards with 77 touchdowns this season.
For all that, the honors have rolled in. He was a top 10 Mr. Football Finalist, awarded to the state’s outstanding football player by the state coaches’ association.
He was most valuable player of the East Central District North Division. He made The Associated Press, KARE-11 TV and Minnesota Vikings All-State teams.
It’s the kind of season you dream about when you’re a little boy moving from Monticello to Becker.
“It’s been amazing,” Radunz said. “It’s a blessing for sure.”
Radunz is careful to spread the accolades. It’s not just all about him.
“It’s crazy to have all the talent we’ve had the past three years,” he said. “It’s made everything better.
“It’s got to the point where I really have to give a lot of thanks to the coaching staff, especially the defensive coordinator (Hokan Bengtson). He’s taught me a lot. He knows how to shut down a defense pretty good. All of the guys have been huge impact players.”
Big junior year
Radunz’s impact has been immense. Lundeen said, especially the past two seasons.
“As a sophomore, he was just so young,” Lundeen said. “Age-wise, he actually should be playing for me next year (he turns 18 March 28).
“It did all come together for him his junior year. He got older mentally, emotionally and physically. He really had a terrific playoff run for us.”
Lundeen said that when Radunz first came into the program, he was quiet and respectful. He believes it was because of his father’s death.
“It was tough,” Radunz admitted.
He has seen Radunz grow into being a leader.
“He became the man of the house at an early age,” Lundeen said.
An older sister, Dani, attends St. Cloud State. A brother, Nick, is a 6-5, 260-pound sophomore lineman on the football team.
“He’s going to be good, too,” Lundeen said.
And that should be scary for Becker’s future football opponents.
The All-Area team lineup
Monday, Nov. 23 — Girls tennis
Tuesday, Nov. 24 — Girls soccer
Wednesday, Nov. 25 — Boys soccer
Thursday, Nov. 26 — Girls cross country
Friday, Nov. 27 — Boys cross country
Saturday, Nov. 28 — Volleyball
Sunday, Nov. 29 — Football
Monday, Nov. 30 — Girls swimming and diving
Football players of the year
Here’s a list of recent Times’ football players of the year:
2015 — Dillon Radunz, DE/OT, Becker
2014 — Michael Veldman, QB, Becker
2013 — Mitch Messman, QB/LB, Holdingford
2012 — Brett Watercott, WR/DB/PR, Becker
2011 — Josh Bungum, RB/QB/DB/KR/PR, Paynesville
2010 — Bryan Schlangen, RB/LB, Albany
2009 — Rob Voshell, WR/DB/PR/KR, Sartell
2008 — Ryan Wiener, RB/LB, Royalton
2007 — Kurt Schlangen, RB/LB, Albany
2006 — Matt Veldman, WR/DE, Becker
2005 — Shane Potter, RB/CB, Becker
2004 — Brian Kampa, QB, Sartell
2003 — Craig Luberts, RB/DB, Pierz
2002 — Kyle Potter, RB/DE, Becker
2001 — Mark Ebensteiner, G/LB, Albany
2000 — James Lehner, RB/LB, Albany
1999 — Adam Maine, RB/DB, Holdingford
1998 — Ross Denne, QB/DB, Albany
1997 — Scott Schmitz, RB, St. Cloud Tech
1996 — Aaron Krych, RB, Holdingford
1995 — Dave Bakker, RB, St. Cloud Apollo
1994 — (Co-winners) Tom Stark and Paul Trobec, RBs, Sartell
1993 — Jeff Hoefs, RB/LB, St. Cloud Cathedral
1992 — Jason Birr, QB/DB, Albany
1991 — Ben Griffin, RB/LB, Rocori
1990 — Craig Sauer, QB/DB, Sartell
1989 — Darryl Goebel, RB/DB, Albany
1988 — Chad Holder, QB/DB, St. Cloud Tech
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.