98 D.J. Pirkle
2010: Started every game at defensive tackle for NIU, accumulating 24 total stops on the year. Tied for fifth on the team in tackles for loss with 5.5 and added a pair of quarterback sacks. Broke up a pair of passes and recovered a fumble. Credited with two stops and recovered a fumble at Iowa State (9-2). Named NIU Defensive Linemen of the Week after recording three tackles, one-and-a-half for loss with an eight-yard quarterback sack, against North Dakota (9-11). Made two tackles, with one tackle for loss, against Illinois (9-18). Named NIU's Big Hitter and Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording two tackles, including a half tackle for loss, at Akron (10-2). Tallied three stops against Buffalo (10-16). Picked up his second sack of the season versus Central Michigan (10-23) for a nine-yard loss. Recorded a tackle for loss of five yards at Western Michigan (10-30). Earned NIU's Co-Big Hit of the Week accolade against Toledo (11-9). Tallied three stops, including a half tackle for loss, against Ball State (11-20). Batted down a pair of passes versus Miami (Ohio) in the 2010 MAC Championship game (12-3). Made a season-best four tackles with half a tackle for loss versus Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl (12-18). Key part of the Huskie defensive line that helped NIU rank as the No. 24 rushing defense and No. 26 total defense in the country while holding six opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
2009: Stalwart in the middle for the NIU defense that held six opponents to 100 rushing yards or less on the year. Tough and durable player started all 13 games in the middle for NIU. Led defensive linemen with 21 tackles, including 13 solo stops. Ranked tied third on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and tied for fifth on the team with 2 sacks. Of his 50 career tackles, one of every three has been for a loss. Made three tackles, including a sack, had a pass break up and blocked an extra point versus Miami (10-24) to record the first PAT block for the Huskies since the 2006 Poinsetta Bowl. Tallied two tackles, including a half tackle for loss, versus Toledo (10-17). Made three solo tackles, recorded his first sack of the season and forced a fumble versus Idaho (9-26). His sack of Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle forced a Vandal punt which was blocked, setting up a Huskie TD. Tied his career-high in tackles with four against Western Illinois (9-12) and South Florida (1-3). Made a tackle for a loss of three yards against the Leathernecks, and recorded one and a half tackles for a loss of four yards versus the Bulls. Also tallied a tackle for loss against Purdue (9-19), Eastern Michigan (11-5), and Ohio (11-21). Made at least one tackle in 10 games.
2008: Made 17 tackles, including 11 unassisted, as a second team nose guard. Had the sixth-most tackles for loss on the team with six, including a career-best two against Bowling Green (10-25). Saw extensive action in all 13 games. Recorded a safety in the fourth quarter of the win over Eastern Michigan (9-27), NIU's first since Sept. 4, 2004. Also tallied a season-high three tackles and his only sack of the season against the Eagles. Made a season-high two unassisted tackles at Western Michigan (9-6), at Eastern Michigan (9-24) and versus Central Michigan (11-12). Recorded at least one tackle in each of the first six and nine of the first 10 games of the season.
2007: Played six games as a reserve defensive tackle as a true freshman. Ranked fourth among defensive linemen with 13 tackles and ranked second on the team with three sacks, despite seeing limited action due to injury. Made his collegiate debut at Idaho (9-22), where he made two stops and had one pass break-up. Credited with two sacks and three tackles at Temple (10-6). Had four stops with one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery vs. Western Michigan (10-13). Made one tackle for loss in the win over Kent State (11-10). Had two tackles vs. Ball State (9-24) and one at Navy (11-17).
High School: Garnered first team all-state honors from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, the Champaign News-Gazette, the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association and Rivals.com as a senior. Named Illinois Defensive Player of the Year by the Joliet Herald News and Star Newspapers. Earned first team all-area honors from Star Newspapers (2005, 2006), Joliet Herald News (2005, 2006), Chicago Tribune (2006), Chicago Sun-Times (2006), Daily Southtown (2006), and NCSA Prep Football (2006). Member of the Sun-Times' Area Top 100 list. In three years, made 183 tackles and tallied 17 sacks, 42 tackles for loss, seven fumbles caused, one fumble recovery, one interception, and three blocked kicks. Rushed for 67 yards on 31 carries, scored 20 rushing touchdowns and had one receiving touchdown. His senior season, credited with 75 tackles, 41 solo, and tallied eight sacks. Also scored seven TDs on 13 carries. Helped lead Lincoln Way East to a 44-1 (28-0 in conference play) record in his career, including a win in the 8A IHSA State Championship game as a junior and four straight league titles. Two-time team captain. Holds Lincoln Way East records for bench, squat, and career tackles for loss (42).
Personal: Born Nov. 21, 1988. Son of Linda and Doug Zalesky. Enjoys weight lifting, music and playing guitar. Admires Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Physical education major.
PIRKLE'S CAREER DEFENSIVE STATISTICS
PIRKLE'S CAREER GAME HIGHS
Tackles: 4,four times, last vs. North Dakota, 9-11-10
TFLs: 2, twice, last vs. Bowling Green, 10-25-08
Sack: 2, at Temple, 10-6-07