2012 was the first year that Niklas Gustav stepped onto the gridiron. Adjustments were about to become regular for Nik. A friend of his had started playing football and Nik found it interesting. He began to attend practices with his friend and then signed up for the team, not quite knowing what he was getting himself into. Football was an unknown game in Germany as Nik described.
The process of learning the game was just that for Nik, a process. Starting as a cornerback, moving to safety and then eventually to linebacker, Nik found his home on the defensive side of the ball. Nik said, “I liked playing defense because it felt free. You can move around before the snap and it didn’t feel as technical as offense and I liked that.”
After playing for a couple years, he had found more opportunities to play the game. These opportunities consisted of playing for national teams and eventually moving to a different country to play.
In 2014, Niklas was selected to play football for team Germany in Kuwait in the World Cup. After a number of tryouts, Nik had made the team. He then had to make it through multiple camps in order to play in the World Cup.
Nik said that while there, they had to play some games at 11:30 P.M. because it was so hot that they weren’t allowed outside during the day. For some, playing and practicing at night was hard because with it being late, it made it harder to concentrate. In order to make sure he was concentrated on the task at hand, Nik would do light stretching and dynamic activities inside to ensure that when practice came around, he had now been sitting around all say. Nik said this was different from his usual routine, because he would be moving around all day doing activities outside, which they couldn’t do anymore due to the heat. Another major adjustment Nik would have to make were in the days leading up to these late-night games. Nik said, “Our whole day would be shifted back. Because of this, we would have to wake up at noon and would return to bed between 3 and 4 a.m.”
Nik said the small adjustments he made while playing in the World Cup “didn’t compare to the life adjustments I would end up making in the upcoming year”. In 2015, after realizing that he may be good enough to play in the United States, Nik began to attend camps that private U.S. high schools were attending. These private schools were too expensive, but one school got him in contact with Aquinas High School in Southern California. Players in these situations need to have a passion for the game in order to make the life adjustments. “When the opportunity came about, I knew I loved the game because leaving Germany and going to the United States should have scared me, but I saw nothing but opportunity,” Nik said.
Following this, Niklas and his younger brother Joshka moved to California and lived with a family who was willing to take them in and this was set up through the school.
Niklas then attended high school at Aquinas and played football and threw shotput. After playing football in high school, he was offered to play at Morningside College. Football is the reason Nik game to the U.S. and it’s the reason he has a college scholarship. Football presented Niklas with an opportunity to further his education here in the U.S..
It was here, at Morningside, that Niklas began to thrive immensely. He became a starter and leader on the defensive line and helped the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mustangs clench their seventh, eighth and ninth straight GPAC conference titles. The passion he displays for football is also a reason for Nik being a key component in the Morningside Mustangs’ first NAIA National Football Championship in 2018.
As of right now, Nik does not know whether football is in the cards post college. He said, “One thing I do know is, much like football, life is all about adjustments. Football has given me that lesson in life and I will carry it on with me. Adjustments have never really scared me, but football has definitely made them more comfortable.”