MITCHELL, S.D. -- The biggest difference from college football to indoor football, said Trevor Wietzema, is the speed of the game.
And the speed seems even faster because the arena is smaller.
Wietzema, a former Worthington High School standout, recently completed a stellar career as a 6-3, 285-pound offensive lineman for Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D. This spring, he commutes from Mitchell to Sioux City, Iowa, to play for the professional indoor team there -- the Bandits.
Affiliated with Champions Indoor Football (CIF), the Bandits play an 8-man brand -- another notable change from the 11-man game Wietzema excelled in while in junior high, high school and college. But he loves it.
“I love being around football. I was ready to hang ‘em up in December,” Wietzema told The Globe this week. “I was done with that game in South Carolina, but it’s like, ‘No, I’m not quite ready to hang ‘em up.’”
Wietzema’s connection to indoor football began after he participated in an all-star college game on the East Coast. He continued to train after that, and during the Christmas break he received a Facebook message from a Bismarck, N.D., pro indoor coach asking if he wanted to play. It wasn’t feasible for him at the time, but Sioux City contacted him later, so he drove down for a tryout. The coach said he had a spot on the team for training camp, and the former Trojan signed a couple of weeks later.
“For me, as a college student right now, the money’s good. But I don’t have any other job right now,” he said.
The best part, he added, is the football. He loves the game.
At Dakota Wesleyan, Wietzema was named to the American Football Coaches Association’s NAIA All-America first team as a senior. He was also named to the All-Great Plains Athletic Conference first team for the second straight year after becoming a second-team member as a sophomore. Wietzema created lanes and protected passers for a top-three GPAC offense in his first three seasons, and in his senior year worked in an offense that ranked third in the conference in passing (240.3 yards per game) and rushed for an average of 116.4 yards per contest.
His indoor team started as the Sioux City Attack in 2000, then changed its name to the Bandits in 2001. It has earned three championships and qualified for the playoffs 13 times. So far in 2019, it has won two out of three games.
Indoor football isn’t like the kind Wietzema played in college.
“The big difference is turf shoes instead of cleats. You can’t wear cleats on the indoor turf. And that was weird,” Wietzema said. “We were in training camp and it was supposed to be the first practice on the turf. And I turned to a guy on the team and asked if we were still supposed to wear cleats. He kind of chuckled. And he said, ‘No, just wear some grippy shoes.’”
Almost all the indoor league players are scholarship athletes. “There’s a lot of good guys all over the place. Right now, one of our running backs is a guy that was in the (now-defunct Alliance of American Football). He came back to Sioux City after it folded,” Wietzema said.
Looking back, the big Trojan said he thought he knew what hard work was until he reached the collegiate level. College, he said, “is absolutely nothing like a high school football team.”
The physical transformation from high school to college, in Wiertzema’s case, was also profound. He says he’s the same exact size, but stronger.
Technique improved, too, as well as his football IQ. He said he thought he learned a great deal from his first year at Wesleyan, but discovered that every season after that was a new learning experience.
“I’m more amazed, honestly, on how -- I wouldn’t say better, in a sense -- I got more refined.”
The awards? He won’t take all the credit.
“In a way they (my teammates) made those awards happen. At times I didn’t want to go to practice during the season,” he explained. “Having your teammates around, just going to practice with them, that’s what it’s all about.”