When Junior Galette was asked to make a significant position switch over the offseason, he abided without any hesitation.
While some players might have been skeptical of such a conversion, Galette took on coach Al Golden’s mission, switching from linebacker to defensive end. On Saturday, he saw the results he dreamt about on those hot summer days in the trenches.
Galette broke through with three sacks and a forced fumble in the football team’s 24-17 win against Miami (Ohio), their third straight victory. His performance earned him Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“I had to gain about 25 pounds, but it wasn’t really much of a transition,” Galette said. “Football is football. Coach said, ‘You’re an athlete, you can do it,’ and I just trusted him. There are still a lot of things I got to work on to be a much better player.”
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound sophomore has been called upon to play other positions in the past, as he played fullback at Saint Joseph’s Regional High in Montvale, N.J. There, he played on both sides of the ball, earning a Second Team All-Bergen County selection at linebacker.
With that kind of versatility, Golden decided to assign Galette a new role.
“The biggest challenge for Junior is to become a complete football player,” Golden said. “Junior is an excellent athlete who is becoming a better football player. He has high-end talent if he continues to prepare and work like he’s been working. The last two weeks he’s worked very hard to become a complete football player rather than just a pass rusher.”
Galette also had 6.5 tackles. His forced fumble on the RedHawks’ first drive set up the Owls’ offense for their first score. Entering the game, Galette had 17 tackles and two sacks. He now leads the Owls with five sacks.
“I just feel more prepared than ever, and as a team I knew that everyone was confident and everybody started believing in me,” Galette said. “I started trusting more people and we just knew how big of a game this was.”
Galette and the defense startled RedHawks quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh into two interceptions, and nearly several more. Galette’s stability on the line has helped mold the Owls’ defense into a menacing matchup for opposing offenses.
The Owls rank second in the MAC in total defense, allowing an average of 366.8 yards per game. Their pass defense also ranks second, surrendering 198.5 yards a contest.
“They are just very resilient right now,” Golden said. “They’re starting to become tough. It’s obvious that they have unity and as I said to them, you can see the offseason program starting to pay off because we’re in good shape.”
Galette said he enjoys the opportunity of getting to the ball quicker, and obtaining more sacks.
Getting to the ball is something Galette became famous for last season, when he blocked a punt during last year’s win over Bowling Green. The acrobatic block ultimately led the Owls to a touchdown and their first win in 20 games.
The athleticism of Galette has given him the success he has had so far. The remaining piece will be experience, which comes with time.
“It just feels so good,” Galette said. “We work harder than any other team I’ve ever been on. Basketball, football, high school – just work harder than any other team.
“It’s just so frustrating when we started losing. It’s like what’s all this hard work for,” he added. “You just have to be patient. Everything’s going to follow up.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.