Photos by mJoy Photography, Matt Strasen and CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Bison legend Brock Jensen reflects on his time in Fargo and his new venture with Edward Jones.
Brock Jensen is still considered to be the best quarterback to ever play at North Dakota State. Even after names like Wentz and Stick performed (and continue to perform) at a high level for the program, Jensen is still the school’s leader in total wins by a quarterback (48) and passing yards (8,598). Though he is not far removed from NDSU, having graduated in 2013, he has already accrued an impressive list of professional accolades. After having stints with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Jensen played two seasons with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks in 2015 and 2016. The latter season featured the Redblacks winning the Grey Cup, which is Canada’s equivalent to the Super Bowl.
He has since retired from football and moved into a role with Edward Jones in the Twin Cities area. With a wife, a new home and hopefully, a family down the road, Jensen has set aside the game that brought him so much. While that decision was challenging, it is one Jensen does not regret.
Jensen reflected on some of his most memorable football moments, his time in Fargo and his current life and work with Bison Illustrated.
It was an extremely warm day in early August when I set my phone map with directions from Fargo to Lino Lakes, Minnesota, a suburb roughly 30 minutes Northeast of Minneapolis. The goal? To meet and talk with Brock Jensen, former Bison quarterback, at his home in Lino Lakes. Having not lived under a rock, I know that Jensen is perhaps the greatest quarterback to have played at North Dakota State. Under his belt are 48 career wins, three national titles and several iconic moments to go with it all.
For some reason, I treated it as though I was meeting a famous musician or movie star. In our correspondence prior to me heading down there, I insisted that I did not want to impose on his home or current workplace. However, he was quick to shoot down my politeness with some of his own. “I can make either my office or house work. I am flexible,” he said in an e-mail.
So, to his house I went. I pondered frequently on the way there what I should ask him. There were so many things I wished to know about his time at NDSU and beyond. Ultimately, I had to narrow it down to a concise list, because I was not about to take up multiple hours of this man’s time. Although, I know he wouldn’t have minded in the end.
Jensen and his wife, Kahla, live in a relatively new development in Lino Lakes. Much of Kahla’s family lives in the area, so it made sense for her and Brock to settle down there. As Brock explained it, “it’s where she’s from and it’s about halfway between where I’m from in Wisconsin and Fargo.”
As I rang the doorbell and was greeted by Jensen and his wife with warm, smiling faces, I began to come back to reality. He was not a famous musician, nor was he a movie star, he was just a man, a human. Jensen just happened to be an immaculate football player and a far nicer guy than I will ever be.
We walked to his basement and as I turned the corner of the house, I saw one of the portions that had been fully decorated (He and Kahla just moved in last March). It was a wall devoted to Bison memorabilia. Posters, a print of College Gameday on Broadway in Fargo and on the mantle, his jewelry. In a stunning black case laid his three FCS National Championship rings, his Wisconsin high school championship ring and his Grey Cup ring from 2016. A truly spectacular sight for any person, sports fan or not.
After I took some pictures that did not turn out well enough for print, we headed upstairs to the kitchen to chat. What ensued was a conversation full of memories, reflections and moments of pondering…
“The Play” vs Eastern Washington
Still a hot topic of debate among Bison fans is the apparent fumble Jensen had at the goal line on second down with time winding down in the fourth quarter. This came in the FCS Quarterfinal against Eastern Washington.
“It’s so funny because I get more questions than you would ever believe about Eastern Washington. I’m so far beyond that. To reflect back on that play and everything, I’ll tell you this: Was I down? I got to watch the play one time in slow-motion on YouTube, just to kind of clear my conscience, and my conscience is clear.
But moving forward, that was a big part of our team’s vision and just to see how close we really were. To know that if we would have got past Eastern Washington in that game, we would have had a game at the Dome. It’s going to be tough to win in the Dome if you’re an opponent. So knowing that we would have had a chance in that game regardless and then the next game would’ve been the national championship. I mean we were really close, we were on the cusp. We knew that we were going to have a lot of guys returning and that the future was really bright. It gave us good energy going into the offseason, we were so hungry to just get on top because we really knew how close we were and I just get chills thinking about it. My personal motivation was having that image where I’m on all fours, just wrecked after the call on the field stood. I used that as pure motivation for that offseason. I just went into it saying, ‘I’m not going to leave anything I have in the tank.’
When you’re the last person who had the ball in their hand before the end of the season… It’s the ultimate team game, but man you really feel horrible about it. I was a young kid at the time, freshman year, just trying to go out there and do my best. Second down and I’ll never forget it, never reach the ball out on second down. It was a learning lesson as a young college quarterback for sure.”
National Championship Number 1
“It’s seriously indescribable. You can’t really describe it. I wish I could. I know I can still reflect on those feelings, but they’re so hard to describe. I mean, you’re sitting there after knowing what you went through to get to that moment and to win the national championship. All the hard work that went into that and nobody truly understands unless you were a part of it. Sitting there with your hands out with the confetti falling through your hands and you’ve got all of Bison Nation out there on the field and there’s just a sea of green and gold and you’re on that stage as champions. I mean, it feels like a billion pounds lifted off your shoulders and it’s just the epitome of what any competitor in any sport wants to feel. Just winning the championship.”
Georgia Southern II
While on their quest to their second national championship in 2012, the Bison met a familiar foe at the Fargodome in the FCS Semifinals. The Bison defeated Georgia Southern in the 2011 semifinals 35-7. NDSU ended up winning “Georgia Southern II” after a game-winning drive by the offense and a blocked field goal attempt by Travis Beck on the ensuing Georgia Southern possession.
“It was the chippy game. It was them kind of holding on to what happened to them the year before, you know, us kind of blowing them out. They were a good squad. Whenever our defense was out there, they were giving up small chunks, three, four yards at a time but Georgia Southern was still finding a way to move the ball on us. It made our offensive possessions even more valuable because we knew we weren’t going to get that much. I just put a lot of pressure on our offense and that was a great collective effort by the offense, defense and special teams in that game. Classic Bison style of finding a way to get it done in the last minutes of the game.”
The 2013 Bison went 15-0 en route to their third FCS National Championship. The scoring margin for that Bison team per game was 38-11.
“I think it all started with just a great group of leaders and a lot of returning talent from the year before. We were coming off two national championships and then in my senior year, our group’s senior class was a special group with a lot of talent. The juniors who were below us, they were another group that was incredibly talented and very mature beyond their years. From the top down, our leadership within the core of our team was a huge difference maker heading into that season.
Obviously, it was about winning another national championship and making it three in a row, but it was also about doing it in undefeated fashion. Knowing that we can do that, we had to take it game by game and not overlook anybody. But that was the true goal, to not lose a game because we were so close the last two years of doing that. You have to bring it every Saturday, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you’re playing Kansas State or if you’re playing Indiana State. That was our mindset going in that year.”
Fondest Coach Bohl Memory
Coach Craig Bohl, who is now at Wyoming, left NDSU after Jensen’s senior season in 2013.
“I think it was walking off the field with him and into the tunnel after the Kansas State game. I had my arm around him and I was exhausted after that game. I was super sick on the flight home and super dehydrated and had a heat exhaustion type thing. I could barely walk off the field just from emotions, from being super tired and we didn’t do a whole lot of talking. We just kind of held each other and walked off, my arm around him, his arm around me. We turned around and there were the fireworks because it was the Bill Snyder night where he was being recognized and they were going to have fireworks regardless, but they turned into the Bison fireworks.
And that was just a fun moment to kind of look and think “this is crazy.” We came in here and this is what we expected to do. This is what we expected to do and we believed it. I mean there’s a lot of our supporters and people who knew how good we were going to be coming into that year, knew that we would come out victorious too. Gosh, to the nation as a whole it might have been a surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise to us. We weren’t the underdogs going into that game.”
The Grey Cup
Jensen played both the 2015 and 2016 football seasons for the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. His first season in Ottawa, the Redblacks made it to the Grey Cup, losing to the Edmonton Eskimos. The following season, Jensen played in four games for the Redblacks, who made it back to the Grey Cup. Facing off against the Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa prevailed 39-33, it was the franchises first Grey Cup.
“It was nice finishing out on top, college and the pros. Not that I knew I was going to be exiting the pros as a champion. It sure feels good looking back. It makes it that much easier to kind of look back and say it was the time to hang it up. And for me, it was just a fun year, that last season. I got a chance to start some games, I played in some games and you know contributed to the group. I wasn’t the full-time starter, but I got some great action, got some good quality playing time and made the best of my opportunity.
It ended up being a great last year for my career and something that I’ll look back on and cherish forever. Winning that Grey Cup was a fun deal for the city of Ottawa and just for us players to be a part of. In the year before that, we were on the losing side of it and you just don’t know what you’re missing out on. It makes the whole celebration afterward just unbelievable. It was a great experience. I’m obviously grateful for going out as a champ, for sure.”
I think it’s just a special camaraderie that only exists if you truly have worn the colors. Whether you are just a student or whether you were a student-athlete or are a parent or just even a huge fan. I think we’re all collectively a part of Bison Pride, but it means something a little bit different to everybody.
“I mean, you’re always going to miss the game forever. A lot of my retirement was due to shoulder injuries over time. I played in a lot of college football games, well over 50 games in my college career. Being somewhat of a mobile quarterback that can run a little bit and you’re taking shots week after week and that adds up. I just didn’t feel 100 percent healthy as I entered my pro career. I kind of felt like an old dog as a rookie in the NFL and CFL. I think that made a little bit of a difference, just with my ability to be really effective at the next level. But I made the best of my situation and the chances that I was given and I don’t have any regrets. Which is nice to be able to leave the game and know that you gave everything to the game.
At the end of the day, a lot of things need to fall into place for an opportunity to come your way. In college, I was grateful to have the chance to start four years because of the situation. In the pros, it didn’t work out quite like that, everybody’s path is different at whatever level you’re at. I’m just grateful for my entire career and for all the players that I played with and all the coaches I’ve had. I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better and football will always be a big part of me and a big part of who I am and who I’ve become.”
The Game To Professional Life
“It was a huge adjustment going from where you’re wearing pads your whole life and throughout every single fall and then finally having to hang up your career. A big part of me is grateful for having clarity and being able to move on to the next step. But of course, you just miss it so much. It was really weird the first fall not putting on the helmet and shoulder pads. Like anything, you know it’ll come to an end, you just don’t know when. For me, I was grateful enough to have made a lot of connections at NDSU, which kind of led me to this next phase of my life and getting into the real world.”
“Throughout my college career, I learned about Edward Jones from Randy Smith, Ryan’s dad, and the opportunities there. Randy kind of softly recruited me, so to speak. He said ‘you’d be a great fit and you should think about it’. So I crossed that bridge when the time came and I hung up my cleats and got a lot of clarity with figuring out what my next step was. Me coming to Edward Jones, Randy was a big part of that, so I’m very grateful for Randy and excited to be doing what I’m doing now.”
How Football Relates To A Career
“Just being disciplined. So much of life is just about being disciplined. That’s one that kind of sticks, doing the little things in life makes a big difference. And there are so many things that go into those little things.
Coach Kramer and all of the accountability that he held us to and the idea of having an accountability partner was valuable. I think that is a huge thing to actually know. That would be the main answer for me I think, is accountability and just how important that is in moving forward whatever goal you’re trying to reach. If you have an accountability partner there with you, your chances of succeeding are a heck of a lot better. If you have a goal just in your head or even on paper, having someone partnering with you to reach that goal makes a world of difference.
That’s something now that I see in my career, with how we partner with people and their financial journey. Just coming alongside them and partnering with them and making sure that they’re doing the right things and taking advantage of all that they can be doing. That’s the correlation I see from NDSU. Accountability with getting up in the morning and working hard to achieve your goal of winning games, and in turn, winning a championship. It all correlates. There are so many things to be learned from football and that’s just one, the discipline and accountability partnership aspect.”
“I think it’s just a special camaraderie that only exists if you truly have worn the colors. Whether you are just a student or whether you were a student-athlete or are a parent or just even a huge fan. I think we’re all collectively a part of Bison Pride, but it means something a little bit different to everybody. I think of a big green and gold family that truly understands the greatness of NDSU and what it all entails.
And there’s a lot of things that go into that greatness aspect. To name a few, from an athletic point of view, it’s just the work ethic, the unselfishness to just be great and to put your individual mindset to the side and say this is what’s best for the team, my effort is what’s going to make a difference. Whether I’m playing quarterback or if I’m a backup or whatever that is. To give it all you have for the betterment of the team and for the betterment of the university. I think when everybody has that mindset it is a pretty special thing when it all comes together and you buy into one common goal. That’s how special things happen.
I think it’s a collective number of different things that Bison Pride is, but I think it’s camaraderie and family that only the people that are truly affiliated will understand.”