Nate Trewyn and Harry Henschler grew up within a few miles of each other.
This is not, however, the tale of two best friends growing up to eventually play on the same college football team together in college.
Trewyn and Henschler really didn’t know each other until they wound up in Whitewater together.
One went to Milton High, the other to Janesville Craig (at least for the most part).
One is one of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s best at protecting the quarterback. The other has become one of the nation’s best at torturing quarterbacks.
Both had aspirations of playing sports at higher divisions in college but have found the perfect fit less than 20 miles from where they grew up.
And even now, Trewyn considers himself more of a lead-by-example type, while calling Henschler a more vocal presence.
Their paths to get here aren’t exactly entwined, but with the Sept. 1 season opener approaching for UW-Whitewater, the two seniors—who list Janesville as their hometown--represent two-thirds of the captains for one of the premier Division III teams in the country.
“It’s awesome,” Henschler said before a practice this week. “I went to Milton when I was younger, so I knew of him. But we weren’t really friends until we came here. I’m really happy about it. He’s a great guy.”
The QB protector
Trewyn grew up on the north side of Janesville but worked his way up through the Milton school district. After playing for Milton High, he headed to Division II Minnesota State Mankato.
After two years there, including one redshirt year and one year where he was a starter on the offensive line, he chose to transfer back closer to home and play for the Warhawks beginning in 2016.
“I’m a business major, so that was behind the decision,” said Trewyn, who is nine credits shy of graduating. “But one of the main reasons I felt like I needed to leave was I wasn’t learning anything more at my position. I felt I had peaked and wasn’t getting comfortable.
“When you get comfortable, you get to a position where you don’t feel like you need to grow. I needed a change, where I felt I could get better. That’s what led me here and has got me to this position my senior year.”
Trewyn certainly wasn’t waltzing into a starting spot by moving to DIII.
He had a senior starter ahead of him who had garnered All-American attention the year before.
“They let me know that right away,” Trewyn said. “But I said, ‘I’m up for the challenge.’ I played every regular-season game except the last one, because of injury.”
That showing was enough for Trewyn to garner some preseason All-American accolades a year ago, heading into his junior season.
He wound up playing in nine of 10 games, including seeing some time at left tackle. He was named honorable mention in the WIAC postseason awards.
Trewyn was back at center for the last seven games last season and has been taking reps there during camp this fall, but he said he’s open to whatever the coaching staff needs from him his senior year.
“I wouldn’t say the O-line is exactly set right now,” Trewyn said. “Just center right now, but we’ll see come Week 1.”
The QB punisher
Henschler, Trewyn said, actually grew up closer to Milton High than he did. And Henschler’s younger sister, Maggy, just wrapped up a storied athletic career with the Red Hawks.
But after his freshman year, Harry Henschler chose to attend Janesville Craig, in part because of his love for hockey and the fact that Janesville had a co-op team and at that point Milton’s program had not yet come into existence.
For much of his high school career, hockey appeared to be Henschler’s sport of choice moving on to the next level.
“I never would have ever thought about this,” Henschler said. “But I’m just so happy with the way it turned out.”
He has steadily worked his way up the program, going from the scout team to now being an All-American-type player.
As a freshman in 2015, he mostly played linebacker, but some weeks he was used as a defensive lineman on the scout team. That’s where he was first noticed by head coach Kevin Bullis and his staff.
Henschler transitioned to the defensive line as a sophomore and was called upon mostly to get after the quarterback when the opposing offense was in passing situations, such as third-and-long opportunities. He finished with modest stats—three tackles and one sack in 10 games.
But Henschler was one of Division III’s top breakout players as a junior last year. He led the WIAC with 17 tackles for loss and ranked third in Division III with 14 sacks in 10 games.
Along with earning the team’s Karl Schlender Most Improved Award, he was named first-team all-WIAC, first-team all-West Region and third-team All-America by D3football.com.
“I just started making more plays and making a difference,” Henschler said. “Now here I am.
“I want to be the best defensive player in the nation.”
Preseason prognosticators certainly think that’s a possibility, as Henschler has been named preseason All-America by multiple publications.
“It’s awesome that people think I’m a really good player. But I have to prove it still. That’s the big thing. They can give you all this stuff for the preseason, but I haven’t done anything yet. It gives me something to shoot for. I definitely want to prove them right.”
Henschler and Trewyn join senior linebacker Bryce Leszczynski as the Warhawks’ captains, as chosen by their teammates.
Both Janesville natives said they take the added leadership role seriously.
“Having your teammates nominate you as a captain, it means they believe in you and expect the best out of you,” Trewyn said. “They push you to be a better person, and I push them to be the best they can be, as well.”
“There’s a little bit of pressure with it, but obviously I want to be a leader of this team. I enjoy helping the young guys out and being a resource. It’s more responsibility and more pressure along with that, but I want to have it in my hands.”
Their paths never really crossed until they met on the UW-W campus.
But it’ll be a pair of Janesville natives, Trewyn and Henschler, that help lead the Warhawks onto the field when their season opens in just two weeks.