Photos special to Bison Illustrated
Three years ago, though the referrals of former Bison football players Craig Dahl, Michael Sheppard and Tyler Roehl, head coach Chris Klieman asked speaker, author and performance coach Ben Newman to visit with the Bison football players. His message to the team a night before the season began for the four-time FCS Champs: “Attack the Process.”
Newman and his popular tagline saw the Bison raise its fifth consecutive championship in January 2016. Klieman asked him to come back last season and Newman’s bond with the Bison football program continues to flourish. He attended a personal-high eight games this season, and most of the home games. Newman was back on the sidelines, right next to Klieman, to witness NDSU return to the top of the FCS mountain in Frisco, Texas.
But it’s not all about wins and losses for Newman.
“What I’ve learned in my study of John Wooden, who is the mentor I never met, I never speak of wins and losses with these players,” Newman said after the game. “But there was something special about this team and I 100 percent knew they would put up that trophy.”
The message to the football team this year was something Newman picked up while he was mentally training the Miami Dolphins rookies this past spring. Dolphins Director of Player Engagement Kaleb Thornhill told Newman his story about inspiring former Miami running back Jay Ajayi during his breakout 2016 season. His message to the future Super Bowl LII champ: Empty the Tank.
Before the first game of the season, Newman was in Fargo during Friday’s walk-through. Klieman called him over to speak to the team and Newman was holding something under a towel. It was a gas tank.
“I just encouraged the guys to dig deeper and find more,” Newman said. “Whether it’s in practice or in the games, every single day, you show up and you empty the tank. That’s where the empty the tank was born.”
NDSU’s football equipment staff packed the gas tank for every away game, and the tank sat front and center in the locker room during home games. The result of the players buying into Newman’s message was another championship and a big celebration in the locker room with the red tank.
“I think every year, and it was a blessing for me being in the third year with the program, it’s just surreal every time how amazing the relationships have been over the years,” Newman said.
“It’s hard to put into words but the moment my feet hit that Fargo dirt, there’s just something about the opportunity to go to work with these guys that’s special.”
Read more about Ben Newman on his website: bennewman.net