When you first meet defensive end Caleb Dalzell, his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame can be a bit intimidating. But it doesn’t take long before his imposing stature is eclipsed by a humble character and calm demeanor – an unexpected contrast from the dominant force fans witness on the field come game day.

And to think, he almost didn’t become a Bruin.

Before enrolling at George Fox, Dalzell was recruited to play football at Western Oregon University. The first-team all-conference high school standout had a great scholarship offer and even signed a letter of intent, but something didn’t feel right about the school or its program. It was then that Dalzell’s grandmother persuaded him to attend George Fox by offering to help with tuition. “My grandma really wanted me to go to a Christian college,” he recalls. “I ended up coming here instead, and I don’t regret the decision at all.”

Dalzell chose George Fox because he was impressed with the Bruin football coaching staff and liked the idea of joining a new program to help create a solid foundation. “Especially the first couple seasons, no one expected us to win any games,” Dalzell says. “We have a lot of people doubting us, and I like being the underdog.”

Embracing that underdog mentality, Dalzell, who will begin his junior year at George Fox in the fall, fought to prove himself during his freshman season in 2015. He didn’t start until the final game of the season, and even then it was as a last-minute fill-in. The defensive end scheduled to start had an equipment malfunction right before the game, so coaches told Dalzell to take the field instead. He ended up with four total tackles, one and a half sacks, an interception, and a blocked field goal attempt at a crucial point in the game.

Caleb Dalzell

“I went from flying under the radar to having a breakout game,” Dalzell says. “It was my best game of the season by far.” As a result of his outstanding performance, he earned his first Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week honor. He’s been starting ever since.

This past season, his sophomore year, Dalzell improved his play in nearly every statistical category, leading the team in sacks, blocked kicks and defensive touchdowns. He was named to the All-Northwest Conference second team and helped the Bruins claim their first winning season in more than half a century.

“He is one of the most relentless defensive players I’ve coached in 35 years, from the time the ball is snapped until the whistle blows to end each play,” praises head football coach Chris Casey. “Caleb is committed to excellence as a student and as an athlete, and he performs at a very high level in both areas due to his mental toughness and strong work ethic.”

A two-sport athlete, Dalzell plays football in the fall and competes in track and field in the spring. This season he recorded the school’s No. 2 all-time mark in the shot put and No. 3 all-time mark in the discus, which earned him another NWC Student-Athlete of the Week honor. What’s more, those throws secured his spot as an all-conference track and field athlete and helped the men’s team make history by winning its first-ever conference championship. Dalzell followed that performance with an impressive fourth place finish in the discus at the 2017 NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships, earning All-American honors for the first time in his young career.

In addition to his impressive performances on the field, Dalzell has excelled in the classroom. At the conclusion of his sophomore year, he boasts a 3.9 GPA and has made the dean’s list in each of his four semesters at George Fox. In May, he was announced as a CoSIDA Academic All-District winner, putting him in the running for a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-American team.

Interestingly, Dalzell admits he wasn’t the best student in high school. “I had a lower GPA in high school than in college,” he says. “When I got here I was like, ‘I need to step it up and start taking school seriously.’ Now, I make sure I put in enough time to be successful in my academics.”

Dalzell says he has always been interested in science and wants to enter the medical field – perhaps in nursing, medicine or physical therapy. Without having a specific profession nailed down just yet he is majoring in biology, which allows the flexibility to enter any number of medical careers. “It’s pretty cool being a biology major in more of a Christian context because you get to examine God’s creation and how it all works,” he says. “That’s a big part of why I like biology so much.”

For Dalzell, George Fox has been the perfect environment to cultivate his talents, both as a student and as an athlete, and he’s intent on continuing to improve. He’s working to raise his already-excellent GPA, eyeing a conference championship in football, and hoping to once again compete nationally in track. Those are lofty aspirations, but Dalzell isn’t fazed. “I just go out there and give everything I’ve got. When I do, good things tend to happen.”