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Nate Keirn '16 Named NCAC Defensive Player of the Year

By Joe Ginley '12 , 11/25/19, 1:15PM EST


Keirn now holds 2 defensive records after a great career at Denison.

If you're looking for an embodiment of an Ignatian athlete at the NCAA Division III level, look no further than Nate Keirn '16.

The proud Saint Ignatius graduate enjoyed an outstanding career at Denison University, a D3 school in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

Keirn recently finished his senior season with the Big Red, and racked up numerous awards and honors. His efforts did not go unnoticed by his peers in the NCAC. 

Keirn won one of the conference's most prestigious honors – the NCAC Defensive Player of the Year. As a defensive end, Keirn tallied 37 tackles, leading the team in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (18). A wrecking ball of a player, Keirn finished the year with 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Keirn is the first Big Red player to win the top award since 1986. 

His body of work over his four-year career with Denison is quite impressive. Keirn finishes his football career as the all-time leader in several categories for Denison football. The Medina native set the school record for career sacks with 36 in 41 career games. Keirn now owns the school mark for tackles for loss. A three-time all-conference selection, Keirn stood as a first-team NCAC player in two seasons. 

Thanks in part to Keirn's efforts, Denison boasted the best defense in the conference. The Big Red allowed just 13.5 points per game and 80.9 rushing yards per game in an 8-2 campaign. Denison claimed a share of the conference title with a season-final win over Kenyon.  

Keirn's success is no surprise to his coaches at Saint Ignatius. Dan Corrigan '78 mentored him, as did current defensive coordinator Ryan Franzinger '02. 

"He's a great technician. He was always a high-effort guy who understood the defense," Franzinger said. "He was always committed. He's not a big guy, but he punches above his weight class. He figures out ways to battle in the trenches."

Indeed, Keirn did succeed during his time at Wildcat High. In 2015, Keirn tallied 25 tackles, topping the team in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5). His coaches named him the Most Valuable Defensive Lineman during his senior season.  

"He's a great kid from a bright family. It's great to see him working hard and being loyal to his team," Franzinger said. "He's just a good, sound, tough football player. He's a great representation of what a Saint Ignatius student-athlete is. He's an excellent, smart young man with a bright future."

Keirn hopes to remain in football after graduation. 

The brilliant young man hopes to get a graduate assistantship after graduation, and launch into a football coaching career.

"Having coached Nate for four years, I'm excited that such a knowledgeable and personable young man is interested in a profession that I've been in for 48 years," said Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "We need more people like Nate coaching our young men. Nate’s personality and ability to teach is a strong indicator for his coaching future. And honestly, Nate is just an enjoyable person to work with."

Coach Kyle is right – remember the name Nate Keirn. He's going places. 

Congrats, Nate!