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Hi-Line Athlete Profile: Justin Pfeifer, MSU-N Football

Big Justin Pfeifer eating up blocks, making the Lights a better defense


Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Justin Pfeifer, left, makes a tackle during Tuesday's spring practice. Pfeifer, a former Cut Bank standout, started every game as a red-shirt freshman for the Light's defense last season, and now playing nose tackle, he's expected to have a huge impact on what should be a much-improved Northern defensive line.

If the Montana State University-Northern football team is going to start winning games consistently, it will be in large part because of the growth and development of players like Justin Pfeifer.

Pfeifer, a product from Cut Bank, was actually recruited to MSU-Northern by former head coach Aaron Christensen. However, as a redshirt freshman, it didn't take long for the stout defensive lineman to endear himself to the new coaching staff and when the 2018 season rolled around, he was a starting defensive tackle in the middle of the defense.

Pfeifer came to the Lights following a stellar high-school athletic career in Cut Bank that saw him earn All-State honors in both football and wrestling. He was named All-State in Class B as a football player, while he finished in the top three at state wrestling three times, including a second-place finish as a junior. Now, along with former Cut Bank teammates Wylie Novak and Peter Hamilton, Pfeifer is hoping to help turn around a Lights defense that allowed an average of 535 yards per game last season.

"I think that things are going really well right now," Pfeifer said. "We don't have very many seniors, so I think these next two years we can do some good things with all the guys that we are going to have."

During the first two weeks of spring practice, the defense has been a little ahead of the offense, and the defensive line, in particular, has been stout. Under new defensive line coach Blake Wilson, Pfeifer said he was taking on a different role this season as a nose tackle, which should mean fewer tackles overall. His main job will be occupying blockers that are trying to get out and block Northern linebackers, so his job is essentially to free those guys up to make plays.

Last season, Pfeifer was fifth on the team in tackles with 45, a number that is pretty high for a defensive tackle. In addition to 45 total stops, he also had 3.5 tackles for loss. Yet, the redshirt sophomore is embracing his role as a space eater in the middle of the Lights defense.

"It's going to be a little different this year," Pfeifer said. "We aren't going to be as worried about our stats, just trying to do our jobs. My job in the middle is going to be taking on double teams most of the time and just trying to keep our linebackers free."

So far, Pfeifer has been part of a defensive front that hasn't been easy to run the ball against during spring practice and over the next few weeks, the third-year defensive lineman will look to continue to develop leading up to the spring game April 20. But before that happens, the Havre Daily News caught up with Pfeifer for five questions.

HDN: What have you enjoyed the most about Northern football these first two years?

Pfeifer: "Being with my friends, I guess. Wylie Novak is one of my best friends and Joe Fehr, he's also on the defensive line, I knew they had signed them and they were some of my best buddies in high school, and my mom lives here in Havre and that was another factor, so that has been good."

HDN: What will be the key for the young guys on the defense to take the next step?

Pfeifer: "I think we are playing pretty well right now. We just have to keep improving every day. We have really focused on our effort and being physical, and if we can keep doing that, I think we will keep getting better."

HDN: What's your goal for this upcoming season?

Pfeifer: "Last year I was trying to make as many plays as possible, but we weren't all in our gaps and we weren't as gap sound, so I just want to stay in my gaps and do what I can to help the team and do my job."

HDN: How does your wrestling background help you as a football player?

Pfeifer: "I think it helped me with my hands and it also helped me learn some balance. It's also a mindset. You just wanted to get after it, so I think I brought those things over and it was just a great experience."

HDN: Is getting a win in the Frontier Conference the goal for the team this year?

Pfeifer: "Yes, I think it is. But we want to get more than just one win. We want to get multiple wins. We want to try to be great. We don't just want to be good."


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