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HAGEN: Tigers need impact from college transfers immediately

Tyson Kayser and Jared Van Winkle already feel they're a part of the Dakota Wesleyan University football family.

Although they've been on campus for about a month as college transfers, Kayser and Van Winkle were officially announced as Tigers at Wednesday's signing day party on National Signing Day.

"Getting commitments from those types of guys is very refreshing because they believe in what we're doing," DWU head football coach Ross Cimpl said. "They feel like they have a reason to be here, which is exciting for us."

Usually, strong college football teams are built through recruiting talented high school seniors and developing those players for four years. In this case, the Tigers landed two playmakers who plan on making immediate impacts this fall.

Since they arrived at Wesleyan, Kayser and Van Winkle have been working out with the veteran players in offseason training programs. Both took different paths to the same destination, but they're happy about the decision to play for Cimpl.

Out of Bon Homme High School, Van Winkle signed with DWU to play for former coach Brad Pole. He was a redshirt his first year at Wesleyan, but decided to transfer to the University of South Dakota because he didn't like the direction the program was going.

"I really wasn't sure how things were going to end up, so I didn't want to take any risks of things still going downhill and me losing years of eligibility," he said. "I decided to leave and when I was at USD, it really made it clear to me how much I like the small university and how much I missed the bond with all my teammates and the family feeling."

Van Winkle talked to some of his old teammates about how Cimpl was changing the program. After the Tigers went 6-4 in the first-year coach's first season, Van Winkle got even more interested in coming back to Mitchell. So, he sent an email to Cimpl and he was accepted back as a Tiger.

Van Winkle, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, hopes to be a safety for Wesleyan this fall. He was a two-time Class 11B all-state selection under coach Byron Pudwill at Bon Homme.

"My goal right now every workout I go through and my motivation I think about all the time is wanting to make an immediate impact," Van Winkle said.

Kayser had bigger dreams than Dakota Wesleyan out of high school. He enrolled at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa, hoping to eventually transfer to an NCAA Division I university.

A 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end, Kayser was a four-year starter and all-state selection for the Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football team and coach Jeff VanLeur. Since the DI offers never came during his time at Iowa Central, Kayser decided he wanted to be closer to home.

Cimpl called Kayser and gauged his interest in coming to play for DWU. Eventually, he was convinced Wesleyan was the perfect fit. One of the main factors in the decision, he said, was playing in Mitchell allowed his friends and family an easier path to watch his games than the four-hour trip to central Iowa.

"He's an impact guy and a game-changer," Cimpl said. "That's what we're expecting him to do, but he's got to put himself in a position to earn that spot and he's going to get every opportunity to do that."

Through offseason workouts, Kayser and Van Winkle have both gotten the same message from the Tigers who played on last season's team. They know last year's 6-4 record wasn't good enough and getting blown out by Morningside and Northwestern -- the top two teams in the conference -- is not an option again.

If DWU is looking to make a run this fall at the conference title, it took a step in the right direction with landing a pair of college transfers who are immediate-contributing pieces in Kayser and Van Winkle.