Austin Greifenkamp was quick to flex his muscles and pump up the Rochelle crowd after the Hubs forced their first turnover of the season against the Pekin Dragons this past month.
Greifenkamp doesn’t shy away from showing his emotions on the football field, and the senior linebacker takes great pride in his ability to express leadership and his passion for the game. Greifenkamp has been an integral contributor for the Rochelle defense this season, recording 11 tackles (one for a 12-yard loss) and one interception through four games.
“We have a lot of guys who get jacked up, but not many of them like to show that,” Greifenkamp said. “They’ll make big plays, but they’ll keep their emotions to themselves. I like to get everybody involved and let everybody feel the energy so I can drive home the point that we’re looking to handle business… It’s like a light switch flips on for me during games.”
Greifenkamp has served on the Rochelle football team’s leadership council for two years, earning rotational playing time his junior season before becoming a starting outside linebacker and tailback his senior season. He was quick to attribute his grandfather and his father Ryan, who played for former Hubs head coach and Rochelle Township High School Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Crandall, as the two reasons for why he plays the game so passionately.
“My grandfather was like that and my dad was 100 percent like that,” Greifenkamp said. “My dad played outside linebacker as well. It definitely comes from my family. The role I have on this football team definitely motivates me… I’m looked at as more of a leader this year and I have a lot more people looking up to me. Pressure is a privilege, which is something I like and something coach [Kyle] Kissack tells us.”
The Rochelle offense has struggled to find its rhythm, but the defense has kept the Hubs competitive in every game, totaling 154 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, five sacks, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions this season. Rochelle has held opponents to an average of 20.5 points per game, and only one team (Morris) topped 21 points.
“We definitely stress defense,” Greifenkamp said. “Our offense is where we have less experience so we have more things to work on, but we have a lot of returning players on defense. We stress focusing on our keys, and defense has definitely been our stronghold.”
A four-year football player at RTHS, Greifenkamp played only one season with the Rochelle Junior Tackle program in sixth grade. But after two years away from the game, he was motivated to put his helmet and shoulder pads on when he kicked off his freshman year.
“I didn’t play during seventh or eighth grade because I didn’t think football was for me, which was weird since we’re definitely a football family,” Greifenkamp said. “I saw the pictures of the eight- grade team on Facebook, and I told my dad I wanted that and I wanted to play high school football. I’ve loved it ever since.”
Greifenkamp and his fellow leaders aren’t panicking despite a 1-3 start to the season and tough matchups against Kaneland and Sycamore on the schedule. The trends are on Rochelle’s side however, as the Hubs have reached the postseason three straight seasons since 2015. Execution will be critical as the Hubs enter the second half of their season.
“We definitely know what the stakes are and we know who we’re matched up against and what we need to do,” Greifenkamp said. “Coach Kissack tells us about winning our thirds and that’s what we’re trying to do. We can’t panic, especially during big games where we really need to win… We need to stick together, because there won’t be a point when we start falling apart.”