EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Family and football always seem to go hand-in-hand and at UTEP, that’s especially true.
The Miners have five sets of brothers on the roster and a pair of father/son duos. One of those duos is head coach Dana Dimel and his son, graduate assistant Winston; the other is associate head coach/defensive run coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Wallerstedt and redshirt junior linebacker, Cal Wallerstedt.
Five years ago, the Wallerstedts thought they’d be together at Charlotte – Matt coaching, Cal playing for the 49ers. Instead, this past weekend, they helped UTEP snap their 0-26-1 record in the Eastern Time Zone against Charlotte.
The Wallerstedts have been around the block – “Moving here to El Paso was my ninth move,” Cal said. It’s all because of the love of the game of football, instilled in him by his father.
“It was rough on him. I think it was my trying to chase a dream,” said Matt.
The elder Wallerstedt played college football at Kansas State, making his first start against Oklahoma and starring for the Wildcats, before beginning his coaching career. Cal was born when his dad was an assistant at Wyoming; since then, they’ve traversed the country chasing the pigskin, with Cal’s mother always with them every step of the way, too.
“Going to different parts of the country, being in different environments I think has made him adjust in the locker room and be very diverse and be friends with a lot of guys from a lot different cultures,” said Matt.
Cal walked on at UTEP after his dad was hired in 2018 and was basically anonymous until earlier this season, when injuries at the linebacker position forced him into action at Oklahoma – the same place his dad made his first career start. He responded with a sack in Norman; since then; the Miners haven’t taken him off the field.
Cal isn’t the biggest guy – at 5’7, 226 pounds, he’s an exceptionally small linebacker – so he’s always had to find ways to be effective.
“Football IQ is huge because athletically I’m not the tallest or fastest dude and I have to make it up with something, so my football IQ helps me out,” he said.
Through six games, Wallerstedt is second on the team in sacks (3), third in total tackles (40) and tied for second in tackles for loss (6). He waited five seasons for his chance and dad is ecstatic to see him make it count.
“A lot of these guys grind and some of these guys that you haven’t seen a lot of, when they get opportunity, take advantage of it and that’s what I’m most proud of. He had close to 400 tackles in his high school career, I always knew he could play,” said Matt.
Father and son have been on dozens of football fields, but here in El Paso, working together has meant the most to them.
“Coach Dimel giving us the opportunity to come here has been great, creating a bond with my dad. We’ve definitely gotten close,” said Cal.
The Wallerstedts and the Miners will look to improve to 4-3, 2-1 in Conference USA play on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT at Louisiana Tech.