From the day Caleb Schreibeis walked through the door at Montana State, he has been a man on a mission.
Schreibeis arrived in Bozeman in the fall of 2008 as a walk-on defensive end out of Billings West High School, following in the footsteps of older brother Joe, who was a tight end with the Bobcats at the time.
Caleb was an all-state player at West as a senior and finished his career ranked fifth in school history in sacks. But once he got to MSU he found out that there weren’t as many opportunities for players in his situation.
So he had to go out and make them.
“Something I figured out a long time ago is that it doesn’t matter how big or fast you are, it’s how hard you work,” Schreibeis said. “I think that’s one thing I focus on all the time. I’m not content with what I’ve done, and I don’t want to have any regrets. I take each play like that.
“I think that’s really helped me out, having that perspective. A big part was coming in as a walk-on. I’ve always felt I have something to prove. I want to prove it to the guys on the other side of the ball, too. People who tell me I can’t do it fuel the fire, and it hasn’t been put out.”
The results speak for themselves.
Now a senior, the 6-foot-3, 252-pound Schreibeis has become one of the top defensive players in the Big Sky Conference. As a sophomore in 2010, Schreibeis made 43 tackles — including 6 ½ for loss — and had five sacks.
He made a huge play to help secure a landmark 21-16 victory over rival Montana that year, recovering a fumble by Gerald Kemp near the goal line in the second half.
That led to last year’s coming-out party. Schreibeis was all over the field during the 2011 campaign: He finished in the top five in the Big Sky in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (11) while piling up 64 tackles from his defensive-end spot. His 64 total stops were the most for any defensive end in the league.
Schreibeis is relentless at the point of attack. He makes plays in the backfield, on the opposite sideline — anywhere and everywhere.
“It all has to do with his demeanor. It’s his determination and motor, and how hard he plays,” sixth-year MSU coach Rob Ash said. “It’s because he never takes a fraction of a second off.
“There are so many adjectives to describe Caleb. Relentless, determined, aggressive. He’s one of the best players in this league.”
Schreibeis also possesses keen leadership qualities, and those were recognized when he was selected as one of four team captains this season. He also holds a deep Christian faith, which he’s shared through missionary work — and some football coaching — in Brazil and Turkey in the past couple of years.
With victories over Chadron State and Drake, the Bobcats are off to a 2-0 start and own the No. 3 ranking in the FCS Top 25 poll. But they were on high upset alert last week against Drake, a non-scholarship team from the Pioneer Football League, before rallying in the fourth quarter for a 34-24 victory.
MSU suffered two big setbacks in the process when defensive tackle Zach Minter (hamstring) and defensive end Brad Daly (ankle) went down with injuries. Minter and Daly are listed as doubtful to play Saturday when the Cats welcome No. 23-ranked (and pass-happy) Stephen F. Austin to Bozeman.
And that puts Schreibeis in the spotlight.
“Caleb has to have a huge game. There isn’t any question about it,” Ash said. “He has to be our guy and get to the quarterback. He’s going to have to play every play and rush the quarterback 50, 60, 70 times, which is a tall order to ask of anybody.”
Despite the concerns MSU fans might have after what was perceived as a sub-par performance against Drake, Schreibeis is confident these Bobcats will meet expectations.
The Drake game “was kind of humbling,” he said. “But it showed us some adversity early. It’s kind of a blessing. I think it will help us more than it will hurt us.
“I still feel good about the guys we have on this team right now and how we’re working together. I think we have all the elements to be a strong team in the Big Sky Conference, and in the nation.”