GRAND FORKS — When you hear a University of North Dakota football coach talk about redshirt freshman offensive lineman Kyle Hergel, you almost always hear the word “nasty.”
For the 6-foot-2, 288-pound Toronto native, that’s a badge of honor.
At the UND football team’s fall camp Friday morning at Memorial Stadium, Hergel was asked to describe his strengths.
“My nastiness,” he said. “I pride myself on being the meanest guy on the field at all times.”
Despite more experienced linemen in the program, Hergel is listed as the starting right guard for the Fighting Hawks’ pre-fall depth chart.
Talking to Hergel, it doesn’t take long to understand his reputation.
“I want to smack somebody new,” he said. “I’m sick of smacking my teammates; I want to go smack some other guys.”
Hergel said new offensive line coach Joe Pawlak, who came to UND after stints with Iowa and Northern Illinois, brings out the best in him.
“He tells me to be the nastiest guy out there,” Hergel said. “He wants you to know your assignment and do it to the best of your ability.”
Pawlak said Hergel proved himself this offseason.
“He did a great job in the weight room and eating right,” Pawlak said. “He’s still working. We’re always fighting to get better every day, but he’s a hungry kid. He’s got confidence and that helps.”
One area Pawlak has emphasized in his first fall camp at UND is making sure his linemen are versatile.
Hergel has taken repetitions at right and left guard and right tackle.
Recruited by former UND offensive line coach Luke Knauf, Hergel is a bit outside the normal Canadian recruit for the Hawks, as he comes from farther east than Winnipeg natives Mason Bennett (current standout defensive end) and Brady Oliveira (former running back now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers).
But he said he’s happy to call Grand Forks home.
“Tough and physical is my game,” Hergel said. “I wanted to smack some guys and this was the place to do it.”
Hergel traveled everywhere with UND last season as a reserve option on the offensive line. He only saw action in one game, maintaining his redshirt status.
“I’m seasoned in a way,” Hergel said. “Traveling shows you the routine, so I’m ready to hop in there Week 1.”
Hergel played behind starter Grant Aplin last season and was confident he’d ascend the depth chart in Year 2.
“My mentality from Day 1 was … we had a really good guard in Grant Aplin … but I knew in my head when he’s gone that’s mine,” Hergel said. “I want to play. I’m ready to help this team win some games.”