The skills that make Jose Delgado one of the best tacklers in Fort Hays State history were fittingly on display on Saturday at Nebraska-Kearney.
On the day that Delgado become the program’s all-time leading tackler in the Tigers’ NCAA era, the senior linebacker came up with crucial stops to help the Tigers take a 29-26 double-overtime victory over the Lopers.
One of Delgado’s 10 tackles might have saved a touchdown, and he brought down UNK quarterback Alex McGinnis for a two-yard loss on the first play of the second overtime, helping hold the Lopers to a field goal attempt that was missed.
“He’s one of the best,” FHSU coach Chris Brown said of Delgado’s open-field tackling ability. “He does a good job of taking away angles. He gives them one way to go and he’s going to make the tackle. You don’t see — knock on wood — Jose miss very many tackles. He knows how to put himself in good position. He knows how to wrap up, bring guys down and drive his feet when he needs to. He can hit you pretty hard as well.”
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Derby product entered the Kearney game seven tackles away from the record, setting the mark in the fourth quarter. He has 364 tackles heading into Fort Hays State’s matchup with Lindenwood at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lewis Field Stadium.
Keith Eck previously held the record with 361 tackles.
“It’s a special thing,” Delgado said of the record. “I’ve been thinking about it, definitely. I follow that, of course. It just kind of shows me that all my hard work is paying off and I can leave my mark on Fort Hays, so when I look back I know I did something special.”
Delgado made an early impact with 64 tackles as a redshirt freshman for the Tigers and then notched more than 100 stops in each of his next two seasons. He entered this year 76 tackles away from Eck’s record.
“People always think I’m under sized or just not the right size for linebackers,” Delgado said. “So I just go out there with a chip on my shoulder and just play with that mentality.”
Delgado credited the defensive line for helping pave the way.
“The big talk was losing Shep (Nathan Shepherd), so that we weren’t going to be as good,” he said. “But the defensive line is just as good as it was last year. They open up gaps for me, make me get my plays like I was last year.”
Brown said he hopes his young linebackers can learn from Delgado.
“He’s one of the best linebackers we’ve coached and he’s going to be missed when he’s done here,” Brown said. “But hopefully those younger guys watched how he played the game and how he prepared for each game and the physicality he played with, and also taking away the angle on the ball carriers."
Delgado and the Tigers (6-2) will look to stay in the MIAA title hunt by picking up a win against Lindenwood (3-5). The Lions are coming off a 38-17 loss to No. 11 Northwest Missouri.
“They’re an improved team from last year,” Delgado said. “They’ve got a good quarterback (Cade Brister) and have a few good running backs, so we’re going to have to know our assignments and do our job.”
Saturday could hold more historic significance for the Tigers, with Brown one win away from setting the program record for coaching wins. He’s currently tied with Bob Cortese with 55.
“We were one of his first classes and helped get the program turned around, so seeing him get that (record) would be special,” Delgado said.