'You always know': Gage Kreski's unwavering effort, attitude leads to success on gridiron

Gage Kreski goes for a tackle on Sat. Oct. 23, Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Gage Kreski secured his Chippewa future with a stellar performance on the basketball court.

Because Central Michigan had missed watching him play football, the Chippewas sent Derek Frazier to watch Kreski play basketball. Frazier traveled to Pickford to watch St. Ignace's do-it-all athlete play a road game. 

Kreski and his family knew history was on the horizon. Heading into the game, he sat on the doorstep of the state steals record. He was the upper peninsula's all-time scorer and had just crossed the 2,000 point mark. 

Not to mention he was a two-time upper peninsula State Player of the Year in football.

“As many of the individual accolades that he’s received, and still receiving, he wants nothing more than for his team to win and be successful,” said Doug Ingalls, Kreski’s basketball coach. 

With Frazier in attendance, Kreski lit up the Pickford gym and proved he had the necessary athletic ability to play Division I football. 

“He had a couple tip ins, and maybe a tip dunk in transition,” Ingalls said.

Kreski scored 29 points and broke the steals record. After his Saints routed the Panthers, he was on the Chippewas’ permanent radar. 

He made the cut as a preferred walk-on during his first season. Thanks to his tireless work ethic and team first attitude, he is now CMU's starting strong safety as a redshirt senior.

“Coming to a big program, and a successful program, like this, you learn a lot of things that I cherish,” Kreski said. “I’ve learned so much here in the last six years that I can’t begin to explain. It’s just been a journey for me. Every step of the way, I’ve grown and I’m very thankful for my time at CMU.” 

Doing it all

Kreski’s parents, Paul and DeAnna, both played collegiately at Northern Michigan. Paul was a football player, while DeAnna starred in basketball. The two got married and raised Gage in St. Ignace, where he fell in love with sports. 

“He (was kind of) raised in a gym,” DeAnna said. “I coached for five years. With him in kinda like a backpack type thing, (we) just brought him with us everywhere we went.” 

At St. Ignace High School, there was no single-sport specialization for Gage. On the gridiron, he was a quarterback and defensive back, while he played all over the court on the hardwood. 

St. Ignace is by no means a large school, which hindered his exposure. However, Gage made the most of it and, in hindsight, appreciated the community support whenever he took the playing surface. 

“The small school thing, everyone goes to the games,” Gage said. “It’s such a good atmosphere because everybody knows everybody.” 

Kreski re-wrote record books and was a three-time all-state selection three times in football and basketball. Despite the lack of exposure his work ethic never wavered. 

“He has learned from his parents that, two things I talk about with my teams and my class all the time,” Ingalls said.  “If you work hard and have a good attitude the sky is the limit.”

Special teams star

Gage’s recruitment was atypical because it started in basketball. 

Playing AAU with Parallel 45 and the Michigan Mustangs, where he was teammates with eventual Bowling Green star Justin Turner and Michigan mainstay forward Austin Davis, Gage and his family made necessary connections to help his football recruitment. 

One of his teammates was Brandon Allen, son of then-Michigan State director of football operations Tim Allen. Because of Tim, Gage and his family went on an unofficial visit to East Lansing. 

Eventually, Gage caught the eye of CMU head coach John Bonamego. After Gage showed out, Bonamego offered him a preferred walk-on spot on the Chippewas’ roster. There was some consideration given to playing at his parents alma mater, but Gage ultimately chose CMU and joined Joe Ostman as the second St. Ignace player on the Chippewas roster. 

“He had a chance to play there and we thought that was kinda cool but we just let him choose what he wanted to do and he obviously made the right choice,” DeAnna said. 

Gage's playing time was limited to special teams early on. He embraced his role and made the most of his opportunity which eventually earned him a scholarship. 

“Special teams basically put me on scholarship,” Gage said. “I was busting my tail. It’s a huge phase of the game, there’s a lot of plays on special teams. Those players are just as important as the starters.”

As Ingalls pointed out, Gage never wavered with his work ethic and passion for the game. Ultimately, he would be rewarded.

“We’ve all coached kids, that, you don’t know what he’s gonna do today,” Ingalls said. “Is he gonna play with some intensity? Or is he on one of those days where you don’t know? With Gage, you always know that you’re gonna get Gage Kreski and his effort and attitude.” 

Making his way

By his sophomore season, Gage had worked his way into a contributing role on defense. The 2018 season opener at Kentucky was a joyous occasion. In addition to being the start of a new season, it was Gage’s 21st birthday. 

“We actually stayed at the hotel that the team had stayed at so we had some time,” DeAnna said. “And he would joke and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I got a pick-six for my 21st birthday,’ and I said, ‘heck yeah it would be.’”

Gage nearly did just that. 

With Kentucky facing a first-and-10 on its own 38-yard line, Wildcats quarterback Terry Wilson fired a pass toward the Chippewa defensive back. Kreski stepped in front and intercepted it, returning the ball to the Wildcats’ 10-yard line. 

“It would’ve been nice if he would’ve had the six," DeAnna said. "But something, either his pinky or his hand, something holding the ball was so dehydrated like, he was so afraid to bobble or drop it, he jumped out before he could wreck that whole situation."

Though the Chippewas finished that season 1-11, Kreski’s playing time increased as the season went on. He played in 10 games that year, then 12 the following year during the Chippewas’ run to the MAC championship game. 

Fast forward to 2021, his last go-around, Gage has started all six of the Chippewas’ games. He had a key interception against Miami (Ohio), and has totaled at least six tackles in seven of the eight games.

Though some viewed Kreski as a long shot, those who knew him best aren’t surprised. 

“He’s very resourceful,” DeAnna said. “If he needs to figure out how to do something he figures it out. I think that’s because he’s an only child and very independent. I’m not super shocked. Everything he has set his mind to, he’s gotten. I’m very proud of him.”