“First of all, he's a special human being,” Bartolomeo said. “He's a special kid in terms of the way he conducts himself. He's like a 3.8 (grade-point average) in pre-physical therapy. He's one of those guys – it's an old cliché – but he's somebody you'd like your daughter to hang around with, and I've got two daughters.”
With one regular-season game left, Bartolomeo sat Fiechter down in his office Monday morning and thanked him for all he's done. The end of Fiechter's college career as a running back is in sight, depending on a possible playoff run, but his legacy is a strong one.
Last week, Fiechter, a 2010 Norwell High School graduate, set the school's career rushing record (3,679, breaking a mark set by Dick Nalley in 1976) and the career touchdown record (45, breaking the mark set by Dick Nyers in 1955). Add those to the 10 other records, both season and career, and he has a case for being one of the greatest players to don the Greyhounds uniform.
Among Fiechter's other marks are all-purpose yards, rushing yards in a season and punt-return touchdowns.
“Coming down here as a freshman, I didn't know how I'd fit in with the team,” Fiechter said. “I've been able to play with guys for four years. I've had a great offensive line my four years, great receivers blocking for me up front. It's been a great experience. (The records) are a big accomplishment because it's an honor to be mentioned with some of these guys.”
Indianapolis (9-1, 6-0 Grand Lakes Valley Conference) has at least a share of its second straight conference title, with an eye on winning it outright against Truman State this Saturday. If they win, the Greyhounds should be included in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Fiechter has always been a team-first player, but it's also true that the longer his team keeps playing, the longer he puts off appearing in his final football game. He hopes to enter graduate school in physical therapy next year.
“Depending on what happens next week, I could be in my last week of practice,” Fiechter said. “It's crazy, actually. I'm embracing it one day at a time. I've enjoyed every part of it, being here, but everything comes to an end.”
Fiechter was The News-Sentinel's Co-Player of the Year, along with Rod Smith, now at Ohio State, when he was a high school senior.
He was a punishing, relentless running back, full of speed and strength as a prep player, and those qualities have remained and improved over his college career.
“He's a really good athlete,” Bartolomeo said. “He could start for us on defense in the secondary. If we wanted to let him go, he'd be out there going down on (kickoff and punt) cover teams. We were very fortunate to get him. He's been nothing but a nose-to-the-grindstone player.”
As a running back, Fiechter's ability to break tackles, or carry his would-be tacklers with him, has set him apart. He has five games of 100 or more yards rushing this season.
“Usually, the first hit does not bring him down,” Bartolomeo said. “He's deceptively fast, more quick-oriented. He reads the holes and blocks very well and just makes great cuts when he gets to the second level. Pound-for-pound, he's probably one of our strongest kids.”
Fiechter has had a few minor injuries over the course of his season, but he's proved to be as durable a back as there is in college football.
He calls Indianapolis a great school with great coaches and a great campus community.
“It's crazy how fast it's gone,” he said. “It seems like I just came down here as a freshman not that long ago. I've had a great ride and a lot of fun, and I wouldn't change anything about it.”
The Fiechter FileKlay Fiechter's records at the University of Indianapolis:
Single-Season Records (all set in 2012 except punt return TDs, set in 2013)
Rushing yards: 1,475
All-purpose yards: 2,237
Total TDs: 21
Rushing TDs: 19
Punt return avg: 21.3
Punt return TDs: 2
Rushing yards: 3,679
All-purpose yards: 5,708
Total TDs: 45
Rushing TDs: 37
Punt return TDs: 3 (tied record)
For more on local sports, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1