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A legacy built by leadership

Carson DeKan, MIAC, defensive player of the year
Former Owatonna Husky Carson DeKam was recently honored as the MIAC’s Defensive Player of the Year. The senior became one of just two Gusties to ever receive player of the year honors from the MIAC. Photo courtesy Gustavus Adolphus College Athletics
Owatonna’s Carson DeKam continues to shine in memory of his late father
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor

Former Owatonna Husky Carson DeKam was recently named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s (MIAC) Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), making him one of just two Gustavus Adolphus football players ever to receive the honor.

With 93 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection on his 2023 season résumé, DeKam proved to be a menace on the field for opposing offenses this past season.

“I think it hasn’t really hit me yet what this accomplishment means, but I think first and foremost, there’s a lot of gratitude. I think there are a lot of people in my life to thank for that. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and dedication, so to see it all pay off is really cool. Obviously, you don’t need accolades to know that it’s paying off, but I can’t lie that it’s really special to earn this recognition,” said DeKam.

As of 2023, DeKam has totaled 250 tackles, 5.5 sacks, five pass deflections, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries in his career as a Gustie.

DeKam’s trajectory to receiving DPOY honors his senior year should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him; he’s about as passionate a football player as the game has to offer.

Strapping up his pads for the first time as a third grader in Owatonna’s youth football system, the college senior has watched the sport he grew up playing transition from a fun pastime to a therapeutic passion.

“I think football has meant so much to me in many ways aside from just the game itself. The game days and the lights are special, but everything else about the sport has really given me everything I want in life. It’s given me the skills to continue to better myself every day as well as relationships that I can carry without me throughout my life,” said DeKam.

While football has brought him many happy memories, it has also helped him cope with some of life’s harder lessons.

“My father was a principal and an educator in Owatonna. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and passed in 2012. I think, in a sense, football has been a really big emotional protector for me. It was a way for me to get my emotions out and grieve in a healthy way. I play linebacker so I’m aggressive and I like to hit. It was a good outlet for me to handle such a huge loss. With perspective and loss, you get hungry and passionate about everything you care about because you never know when you’re going to lose them,” said DeKam.

According to DeKam, it was his father, Kyle, who set the precedent for what a leader should look like.

“Leaders inspire other leaders, and I’ve always taken that to heart. I think something I really admired about my dad was that he was authentic in how he led, but he also pushed others to lead as well. He raised everybody’s bar. It’s how I look for leaders I want to follow in life, and it’s how I try to lead as well,” said DeKam.

The qualities that DeKam admires most about his father shine true to this day with the annual presentation of the Kyle DeKam Leadership Award – an award that recognizes students in Owatonna schools who show exemplary leadership skills.

Despite being a senior, DeKam will have one more opportunity to suit up in the Gusties’ black and gold in 2024 thanks to the NCAA granting his class an extra season of eligibility.

Looking back at how far he has come, DeKam made sure to acknowledge how important his career has been in shaping him as a man – all the way from his younger days as a Huskies’ youth athlete, to becoming a star at Owatonna High School, and now, as an integral part of a surging Gustavus Adolphus program.

“I guess what I’d tell a younger me is, ‘You never know what you’re going to face in life, but if you attack every day the way I’ve attacked playing football and pushing my teammates and those around you, everything will take care of itself,’” said DeKam.

DeKam will be recognized for his honors at a banquet held at Gustavus Adolphus College on Sunday, Dec. 10.

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