SIOUX CITY | Devin Groenhagen has become a key member of the Sioux City Bandits defense.

His success can be traced back to his first taste of the indoor football game two seasons ago.

“I tried out for the Bandits and I actually got cut,” said the former Morningside College defensive lineman. “I am a hard working person and I didn’t take that too well as most people don’t, so I kind of worked my tail off. I made it last year but didn’t end up playing until four games in because some people got hurt.”

Groenhagen wasn’t sure he would be back this season as he was beginning a new career, but when head coach Erv Strohbeen called, the Le Mars, Iowa native decided he wanted another season on the gridiron. Both Groenhagen and the Bandits are enjoying the results so far.

Groenhagen is part of a defensive front that has proven to be one of the most disruptive in the Champions Indoor Football league. He has 23 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss, 1 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for the 6-0, North Division-leading Bandits.

Groenhagen said he had to get used to the bigger players he had to battle to try to get to the quarterback and the faster pace the indoor game provides. Now it is Groenhagen that setting the pace when it comes to big plays.

His big play potential was on display on opening night against the Omaha Beef as he stripped quarterback Anthony Iannotti as he was running to the end zone. The Bandits recovered the ball and went on to win the game.

Groenhagen added another QB strip that was picked up by Cliff Stokes and returned for a TD in last week’s win over Bloomington.

“I found out the thing that helps me out the most is motor, chasing after the ball, the stuff that they kind of taught us at Morningside they believe in with the Bandits,” he said. “That kind of helped me out, helped me standout."

In an early season of highlights for the team, Groenhagen’s 20-yard scoop-and-score of a fumble against Kansas City stands out for a lineman that doesn’t get to visit the end zone often.

“My very first time scoring was my freshman year of college on the JV team at Morningside,” he said. “There were times in college where I picked up a fumble and tried returning it but I usually got brought down.

“I started running and I thought I had some room, I was almost there and I felt the guy kind of close on me and jumped on my back. But I knew I was this close I had to get in.”

Groenhagen has proven to be a team player this season as he stepped in at center for a game when injuries made the Bandits thin at the position.

“Eighth grade,” said Groenhagen when asked when the last time he played the position. “It was a tough thing but I got a lot of support from my team during practice. Coach (Strohbeen) actually last year during the beginning half of the season asked if I could try to play (but) I had never played in a game, just practiced it a little bit.

“They got me prepared as well as I could for a game like that. Football is bigger than one person and it takes a team effort to win, and I think that is why we are doing so well this year.”

Groenhagen, CIF sack leader Devon Bridges (8.5) and Westly Johnson fill out the Bandits' defensive front. Groenhagen said his job is made easier because the two ends are always forcing quarterbacks up in the pocket and toward him.

The Bandits are preparing to face West Michigan (2-4) on the road Saturday with the rematch just one week later back in Sioux City.

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