The Morningside defense is built upon nine returning starters this season, none of which emulate this defense more than senior All-American safety Klayton Nordeen, who maybe doesn’t get the publicity he should, but that’s the way he likes it.
“He’s played a lot of games for us, started a lot of games. Just doesn’t always get the press that some of the other guys get, but definitely deserves it, because he’s kind of the quarterback of the backfield, and he does a great job with that,” Head Coach Steve Ryan said.
They say the best ability is availability, which is certainly true for Nordeen, with 52 career games, but he hasn’t been alone. The Mustangs’ defense is full of players who have grown together as multi-year starters, something that Morningside has reaped the benefits of this season.
“He gives us a lot of confidence,” Ryan said. “because he also does a great job against the run. And you talk about Nordeen, you have to talk about Clayborne. The thing is, they’ve played so many games together, it’s almost like they’re a pair. And sometimes when you have a pair of safeties that do an outstanding job together, their individual that their individual recognition doesn’t necessarily come.”
“As a unit, I think we mesh really well. One of the things I think is really special about this group is humility,” Nordeen said. “We joke around and fool around and stuff, but no one has a real all about me attitude.”
It’s that team-first approach that embodies the Morningside defense. There are no players that jump off the page, and yet their team numbers are some of the nation’s best, not that they need anyone’s recognition.
“It’s always nice to be recognized, but at the end of the day, just like last year, we all get that ring. Coach Ryan says it too. A lot of things may happen, but if you go down as a champion, you’re a champion forever. Our main goal is still getting a ring on the finger,” said Nordeen. “And I will be perfectly happy with that.”
Nordeen and company will now be tasked with stopping the NAIA National Player of the year as Marian senior runningback Charles Salary was given that honor tonight. He went from practice squad to the national player of the year. Pretty inspiring stuff, but I’m sure the Morningside defense will be more inspired on Sunday after the game.