It's difficult for Randy Sieler to hide his emotions when talking about his son. Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler's success on the gridiron is the secondary source of pride his father exhibits when detailing Zach's circuitous route to the contract extension he earned with Miami in November.
While the extension is indicative of his development as a football player, it's the humble character Zach displays that makes his father most proud.
"He's a very unique individual," said Randy Seiler on the latest edition of the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
"I get emotional talking about his journey because I'm just so proud of the work he's done to put himself in this position."
Sieler's 2020 breakout campaign with career highs in virtually every statistical category came in his third season, just like in his college career. The first-ever Ferris State Bulldog to be drafted into the NFL produced back-to-back consensus All-American seasons in his junior and senior years. Those Saturday sacks and tackles for loss were the product of a 24/7 grind as Sieler fought for playing time early in his college career.
"People don't know this but Zach, through his first two years at Ferris, didn't even step on the field," Ferris State Head Coach Tony Annese told BigRapidsnews.com. "It took him until his third year."
"What's great about him is he's one of the hardest working young men I've ever been around. He's also one of the nicest, kindest persons I've ever been around," Annese said.
That's the part that forces Randy Sieler to fight back tears as he recalls Zach's days at Ferris State.
"I can't tell you the number of people that don't understand Zach because he's so different in so many ways. He'll come out to the ranch and put up a ceiling fan or help out with cleaning up and you'd never know this is an NFL player because he just works alongside everybody else and he's a very humble kid."
The ranch he's referring to is Clay Gully Outfitters, Florida's largest free-range gator hunting outfitter, a Sieler family business.
The ranch has become something of a destination for Sieler's Dolphins teammates, like running backs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.
"The two running backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, and then Davon Godchaux came out," Randy Sieler said. "I don't remember who it was but one of them went after a hog and got kind of scared. When you do that, the hog will charge you. So we've got a 300-pound defensive linemen and two NFL running backs with this hog charging, and the only thing squealing louder than the hog was those guys trying to run."
On paper, deer hunting in southeast Michigan doesn't translate to a Florida lifestyle, but the timing was perfect for the Sielers.
"We established (Clay Gully Outfitters) when Zach was still in Baltimore, so all of a sudden coming to Miami, you couldn't have written a better script," Randy Sieler said. "It's absolutely amazing how everything came together."
It came together on the ranch and on the football field for Sieler in 2020. His 32 run stops were eighth-most among interior defensive linemen, helping secure the aforementioned extension. Now, signed through 2023, Sieler can spend every offseason training, hunting and working on the ranch.