Jose Delgado’s steady climb up Fort Hays State’s career tackling chart began almost as soon as the linebacker took the field for the Tigers.

As a redshirt freshman, he made his presence immediately known with 64 tackles. The Derby product then notched more than 100 tackles in each of his next two years.

“Definitely the transition from high school to college was a little faster, so I had to get used to that,” Delgado said. “But after those first three or so games, I was getting a feel for everything. Just learning the schemes was a big thing for me. After that, I just took more steps forward to where I am now.”

Delgado ranks seventh among the Tigers’ career tackling leaders since the program joined the NCAA ranks, entering his senior year with 285 career stops. He’s 76 tackles behind Keith Eck for No. 1 on the list.

He is one of several key returners on the FHSU defense.

“I already considered myself a leader, but I definitely have to take a bigger role because it’s my senior year,” Delgado said. “I think my role’s definitely stepped up a little bit more, for sure.”

After attending Butler Community College his first semester of college, Delgado found a better fit at Fort Hays State and joined the team in the spring of his freshman year.

“Coach (Chris) Brown, the way he was recruiting me, I just liked how he was as a person,” Delgado said. “I bought into what he said to me. I came down my freshman spring and joined the team and everything worked out like he said. I was on the field early.”

Delgado was an integral part of the Tigers’ 2017 MIAA champion squad, leading the team with 107 tackles while earning first-team All-MIAA honors and third-team Don Hansen All-America honors.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Delgado, who is listed at 5-11, 205 pounds. “We’d been taking a step every year and finally getting this MIAA conference championship, it was just a great feeling.”

Delgado and the Tigers will take their first step in defending their MIAA crown at 7 p.m. Thursday against Central Missouri at Lewis Field Stadium.

“That’s always a tough game for us,” Delgado said of Central Missouri. “We have to start the season off strong, and if we don’t, there’s a chance we could lose. So we have to be prepared for what comes to us.”