SIOUX CITY | Corey Wortman has made a discovery about the Northern Elite Football League.
Some of the NEFL’s best players are in their early 30s. The 32-year-old outside linebacker from the Sioux City Stampede hasn’t shown his age, still playing at high intensity for a defense that heads into Saturday’s league game at Memorial Field against the defending champion Minneapolis Warriors having allowed just 15 points this season.
He’s just trying to match his younger teammates’ fast and furious approach. Second on the Stampede with 31 tackles, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Wortman puts himself in position to make plays on the team’s swarming defense that had posted back-to-back shutouts and has yielded just 15 points in NEFL play.
“I play with no fear,” said Wortman. “I’m a big fan of (Dick) Butkus. His mentality was, 'I’m not just going to tackle you, I’m going to try to run through you.' I’ll pick you up after the play is done, but between the whistles, I’m going to run through you and I’m going to try to hurt you.
“Everyone on our defense has the same mentality. We look to make hits. We’re fast on defense. We’re able to get pressure. We’re one of very few teams in this league who are aggressive towards receivers. Coach (Jason) Garnand says we are a dog of a team, the way we fly to the football and wear teams down. You’re going to get hit when three or four of us are going for the tackle.”
Only fellow outside linebacker TyRae Kemp (33 tackles) has more stops than Wortman, a 2004 River Valley High School graduate who has the team’s lone defensive touchdown of the season.
Wortman also has 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions. He earned Midwest Football Alliance all-star honors a year ago in his first year with the league-champion Stampede.
It was Wortman’s third MFA all-star award, the first two coming with the Northwest Iowa Sharks based in Sutherland. An instrumentation and electrical technician with Sioux City’s CF Industries, Wortman is one of the Stampede’s four captains.
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Wortman leads by example, the way he studies film. This quality alone explains both of his two interceptions, one which he returned for a 35-yard touchdown in a 29-28 non-league win over the Kansas City Bulldogs and another in the fourth quarter that saved a 23-15 win over the Fargo Invaders.
“He’s a good contain linebacker,” said Garnand. “At Northwest Iowa, he was more of a free-lance linebacker who attacked wherever the play would go. At Sioux City, he’s a positional player. We have responsibilities on defense. He puts himself in position to make plays and have the season he is having this year.”
Unlike several Stampede teammates, Wortman never played collegiate football. He traveled throughout Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota to participate in dirt bike racing from ages 16 to 18 when a knee injury and a collapsed lung ended his run.
Then, on a dare as a 19-year-old, he tried bull riding at the Woodbury County Fair and kept that sport up for a couple of years. He also completed a six-year Air Force stint.
Wortman was 27 years old when he gave football a second try.
“It was my way to say I still had it,” he said. “Not playing in college, I still had an itch to scratch. Every year, I got better. I made all-star teams. Some of the top players in this league are over 30.
“Knowledge is power. You’re only as old as you feel. I take pride in taking care of my body. I prepare myself mentally to play. I love the camaraderie. I am blessed I can still play this level with these guys.”
“One word I would use to describe him is he is the general of the defense,” said Garnand. “He’s always positive. He has a nose for the football. He understands the situation where the ball is on the field. He very rarely misses a tackle. It’s beneficial to have a player like that. He’s a huge asset to our football team.”