Whether it’s a backyard football game between friends or a national championship game in front of thousands of fans, Dalton Holst just wants to win.
A few weeks ago, Holst wasn’t sure if he would get that opportunity as the quarterback for Chadron State College in Nebraska. The Campbell County High School alum and 2015 Wyoming Offensive Player of the Year has solidified himself as the starting signal-caller for the Eagles.
After redshirting his freshman year, Holst is entering his fifth year at Chadron State.
The school’s football season was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been reinstated to allow Holst and the Eagles to play a six-game schedule this fall. Since hearing the news, Holst has nothing but gratitude to be able to compete on the gridiron starting Oct. 10 at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado.
“For the whole team, the whole town and all of college sports, there was just a lot of uncertainty,” Holst said. It was unsettling “not knowing when we were going to play and if we were going to play at all or if we were going to go back to school at all.
“The schedule came out and it was great news. We have six games on our schedule now.”
One major difference this football season for Holst is the lack of a playoff or championship. Not being able to play for a title is disappointing, but better than not playing at all.
“It’s going to be hard because we don’t have a DII championship and there’s no conference playoffs,” Holst said. “You still no matter what go into the game thinking you want to win. No matter if you’re playing in the backyard or playing for a national championship, you want to win.
“I don’t care if there’s no championship right now, if some guys only get six games, I want to go out and be 6-0 for those guys that are playing in their last six games.”
The coronavirus pandemic has led the NCAA to granting student-athletes an extra year of college eligibility, Holst said.
“In my mind I’m going to take that extra year and come back in 2021 and have a sixth year,” Holst said. “There’s some guys that won’t choose that path because they want to start their lives or for financial reasons.
“Some guys are coming back and some guys are moving on. I’m just thankful ... we’re playing games, but it’s not the whole senior experience that I really had in mind, but hopefully we’ll get that next year.”
Academic adjustments will be necessary for Holst to attend Chadron State for an additional year, he said.
“I’ll be student teaching in the spring somewhere in the area,” Holst said. “It’s either take a few classes and work toward a minor or just start master’s classes.”
Like many other colleges across the country, Chadron State is taking plenty of precautions when it comes to limiting the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak among student-athletes.
“We get tested every Wednesday,” Holst said. “It’s been that way since classes started.”
Despite not having a playoff or championship to look forward to, Holst has his eyes on starting the season Friday against a fellow member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
“It’s exciting. Obviously, the uncertainty is still there but I think it’ll be a fun time,” Holst said. “I’m really looking forward to that first game and getting some of the nerves out of the way with some younger guys playing and just going out there and playing as many games as we can this fall.”
Although his football career at Chadron State is far from over, Holst has asserted himself as one of the best quarterbacks in program history.
Last season, he broke the school records for most passing yards in a season (3,119) and most touchdown passes in a season (33) while leading the team to a 6-5 record.
“It’s been awesome. If you would have told me this would be my experience I would have laughed at you,” Holst said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to play college sports at all.”
His career on the field can be summarized in statistics and accolades, but his experience off the field at Chadron State has been even more influential for Holst as he sets his sights on the upcoming fall season.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Holst said. “It’s been a great learning experience and each year I feel like I’ve learned more and more. I’ve met a ton of great people here and a lot of great coaches and players that I have nothing but respect for.
“I love Chadron as a community and I’ve been nothing but happy here.”