College football: DyShawn Gales continues to build his legacy among South Dakota State's top corners

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BROOKINGS — The 2023 senior class will go down as the most impactful in the history of South Dakota State football. But while many will remember how Mason McCormick and Garret Greenfield epitomized the 605 Hogs and how Jadon and Jaxon Janke became one of the best receiving duos in school history, cornerback DyShawn Gales has cemented his own legacy, becoming one of the greatest secondary players to throw on an SDSU uniform.

“He is one of the most impactful secondary players in school history,” SDSU head coach Jimmy Rogers said. “I say that because of his ability to come up and strike people. I think over and over, game after game, you see his physicality show up and that’s rare for a corner to be that physical and have the ability to cover everybody’s best receivers in the country.”

Gales has developed into one of the FCS’s best corners, but that path didn’t come without a leap of faith. Gales starred as a North Chicago Community High School quarterback and posted back-to-back seasons of 1,000 rushing yards during his junior and senior seasons. After throwing for 750 yards with 23 total touchdowns during his senior year, Gales made his visit to Brookings and connected with Rogers and the rest of the coaching staff.

“The coaching staff made it feel like home right away,” Gales recalled. “Just hanging out with the guys and the brotherhood especially. It’s something you don’t experience every day.”

Gales worked on the scout team during his redshirt season but went on to play 19 games with seven starts during the 2019 season and the 2021 spring season. While he credits his confidence to learn a new position, he also credited the staff for helping him ease into that role.

“It was really just having that dog in myself,” Gales said of the learning curve. “The coaches made it an easy transition and taught me to position myself well. They taught us to just grind every day and just try to get better.”

Gales took over the starting role full-time in the 2021 fall season and placed third on the team with five pass breakups. He took another step forward by starting all 14 games with six pass breakups during SDSU’s run to the national title the following year and put his physicality on display with 31 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.

After becoming an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team selection last season, there have been plenty of influences off the field that have led to a big senior year.

Gales uncle, Durrell was going to be the first member of his family to go to college before he was murdered in North Chicago at the age of 18 in 2003. Gales wore Durrell’s No. 42 jersey as a tribute to his late uncle before the Jacks’ final regular season game against Missouri State and he sees plenty of similarities as he has taken his path.

“He was a personable guy who just always wanted the best for the family,” Gales recalled. “I think we kind of resemble each other because I just try to do so much for my family and have them take these moments because you’ll never get them back. I just keep taking the time to join in and just have fun.”

Gales also finds motivation in his studies. Although he came to Brookings undecided, he considered pursuing a career in coaching before getting into the future education certification program with the assistance of SDSU professor Dr. Tracy Nelson.

“Just working with little kids and their high energy just motivated me,” Gales said. “I just wanted to be somebody who can teach them and I’m just having a lot of fun with them.”

But on the field, Gales credits the upperclassmen who came before him that helped establish SDSU’s culture and paved the way for this year’s senior class to reach new heights. Players such as linebacker Christian Rozeboom and cornerbacks Jordan Brown and Don Gardner helped get the Jacks to the verge of a national title, including a spot in the national championship game during the 2021 spring season, but Gales and the current senior class finished the job by defeating North Dakota State in Frisco last January.

“Just seeing guys like Christian Rozeboom, Jordan Brown and Don Gardner not accomplish their goals made us a closer group,” Gales said. “We wanted more for this program. We always wanted that national championship and luckily we got there and it made us even tighter just grinding every day to get back.”

Gales has helped the Jackrabbits stay on track with 34 total tackles (one tackle for loss) this season and had an interception in the Hobo Day victory over Northern Iowa on Oct. 14. While Gales has been a steady presence, Rogers also believes that he could continue his career if given a chance at the next level.

“I’m really hoping that a team gives him an opportunity in the NFL because he won’t disappoint,” Rogers said. “Special teams, nickel or corner, he can do it all. He’s extremely smart and deserves every bit of credit that he’s gotten.”

While that opportunity could be on the horizon, Gales is focused on just enjoying the remainder of the season and hoping to add one more national title to the legacy of the 2023 senior class.

“It would mean everything,” Gales said. “You’ve worked so hard for this and it’s just a testament to this program showing where it’s going. Now we need to prove that we’re not just a one-and-done program. We’re trying to start a dynasty here and we’ll see how far we can go from here.”