Koby Kayser ready to follow in Jamin Arend's footsteps as DWU's bell-cow back

Apr. 29—MITCHELL — It won't be easy for Dakota Wesleyan football to replace the production of Jamin Arend, the All-American running back who churned his way to 1,212 rushing yards as a senior in 2023.

But if somebody is prepared to step into the void left by the departure of DWU's all-time leading rusher, it may well be the man who's followed close behind Arend his entire football career.

Rising redshirt sophomore Koby Kayser shares Arend's hometown of Emery, and the two briefly overlapped as teammates on the Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football team while in high school. Now, after two seasons of watching Arend dominate GPAC opponents as his college teammate, Kayser feels he's ready to follow suit.

"I grew up with Jamin and so I've been looking up to him for my entire life," Kayser said. "Everything he did kind of rubbed off on me and put me in the position I'm in right now."

Behind Arend in the depth chart, Kayser played sparingly as a redshirt freshman last season, recording 83 yards on 14 carries in six games.

However, during spring practices, he has been one of the featured backs.

"Koby really impressed me this spring," receiver Cole Holden said. "We saw a little bit of it last spring, but obviously having Jamin back there, you're not going to get as many reps. But I think he's really going to do some big things for us next season."

At 5-foot-9 and over 200 pounds, Holden described Kayser as "a little bit of a different runner," than the 5-foot-11,195 pound Arend, with a stockier build.

Kayser's powerful skill set, which comes with the build, was on full display during last Saturday's spring game at Joe Quintal Field. While his speed made him dangerous in space, Kayser dazzled in between the tackles, where he embraced the contact, breaking multiple tackles and tacking on extra yards. He ended up with at least four runs of 10 or more yards and scored a touchdown.

Following the game, head coach Alex Kretzschmar lauded the effort of Kayser and redshirt freshman back Landon Iverson, saying they "both can make defenders miss and both can get some hard yards."

And that's how Kayser sees his game.

"Kind of my roots, just running hard, getting those extra yards," Kayser said. "And then if I need to, I can lower my head and get some more yards."

The mentality is no surprise, considering where he came from. Longtime Bridgewater/Emery-Ethan coach Jeff Van Leur has built a culture of hard-nosed, run-heavy football, and it's translated into seven state championships. Kayser thrived in the system, running for 1,412 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior.

Since joining DWU's team in 2022, Kayser feels he's been embraced by the program and has been able to continue to grow as a player. And now, it's his turn to shine.

"Shout out to the coaches," Kayser said. "They've helped me with my entire career. I've been here for two years now, and they've helped me along the way with my struggles, and when I've been doing good."