Photo by Hillary Ehlen & J. Alan Paul Photography
If there’s one thing that sticks out on Brock Robbins’ high school and college football career, it’s the drop in statistics. The North Dakota State sophomore fullback went from an unstoppable 9-man football player to someone leading the way for the playmakers on the field. And on a good day, he’ll get to touch the ball once. Robbins really doesn’t care, though. He’s been an NDSU fan since a kid. And now that he’s donning a Bison uniform, he’s bought into the mindset of doing it for the brother next to you.
Pride Of The Prairie: Brock Robbins
High School: Cavalier
NDSU by the Numbers
21 games played, four receptions for 32 yards. Named to the MVFC Honor Roll twice.
Cavalier, North Dakota, is an NDSU football town. One would think the city of 1,241 people that’s less than 20 miles from the Canadian border would gravitate toward the University of North Dakota. But up to 50 people, some filling a customized NDSU tailgating bus, drive right through Grand Forks to get to Fargo every fall weekend for home games.
Notable past Bison players from Cavalier like Matt Anderson, Rob Hunt and Steve Laqua probably had a big helping hand in having the town wear the Bison green. Now there’s another player adding to the Cavalier-to-Fargo pipeline. Brock Robbins has been cemented as one of the best football players to come through Cavalier. He won two 9-man state titles for the Tornadoes in 2013 and 2014 while scoring 72 career touchdowns and racking up 307 solo tackles. A few college football teams in the area showed interest. There was only one that mattered to Robbins.
“Growing up, I always watched NDSU on TV,” he said. “My mom (Lori) played basketball here (an All-American in 1982 and inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997). I was always a Bison fan. And just the tradition they have here. It was an easy decision for me.”
Those gaudy statistics by his name are now gone. But his importance on the field is not. As the fullback in NDSU’s system, Robbins is key in making sure the tradition of running the football continues. And he didn’t need a humbling experience or a stern lecture from a coach to adjust from being a superstar to a role player, albeit an important one.
“I just bought in right away and try to help the team as best I can,” Robbins said. “I had the mindset of doing whatever I can do. It’s just playing for the guy next to you. You do it so the running back can make a play or the quarterback can make a throw. At fullback, it’s a position where I can play and get on the field.”
Robbins played in eight games last season and started two of them. He missed six games in the middle of the season with a foot injury. As the No. 1 fullback on the depth chart, Robbins has played in 13 games this year.
He is one of 22 players on the NDSU roster from North Dakota. Robbins, Tanner Volson (Balfour), Stanley Jones (Bismarck), Levi Jordheim (Dickinson) and Bryce Messner (McVille) have all started for NDSU this season. While not listed as No. 1 on the depth chart, Jeff Illies (Lidgerwood), Ty Brooks (Fargo) and Luke Bacon (Granville) have played significant roles as well.
When NDSU transitioned to Division I, many worried about what it meant for North Dakota high school players wanting to be Bison. But home-state athletes were a major part in NDSU’s run of five straight national championships — names like Ryan Smith, Travis Beck, Andrew Grothmann, Ryan Drevlow, Landon Lechler, Austin Richard, Esley Thorton and Carson Wentz.
“It’s cool to be named with some of those past and current guys,” Robbins said. “Being from North Dakota, it’s having pride in your state, working hard and contributing to the Bison. It’s been really cool.”
NDSU football has grown to be the biggest show in the state. Fans all across North Dakota have become invested in the team. Having local players making an impact grows the interest even more. Robbins sees that first hand. Not many people watch the fullback as a play develops. But Robbins knows there’s a large contingent of Cavalier fans watching his kickout block or his cutting of a linebacker downfield during a Bruce Anderson highlight-reel touchdown run.
And when he’s back home, everyone wants to talk about the Bison, whether it’s the outlook for the upcoming season or their upcoming opponent.
“It’s nice to have support from your hometown and getting good luck texts before games,” Robbins said. “It’s really nice to have that from your hometown.”
Questions & Answers With Brock Robbins
Bison Illustrated: Cavalier is closer to Grand Forks than Fargo, but it seems there’s a lot of Bison fans there. Why is that?
Brock Robbins: “There are some UND hockey fans, but not so much football. I would say it’s more of an NDSU town. We’ve had a few guys that have gone to NDSU from Cavalier, so they will support NDSU even if they’re UND fans.”
BI: What’s it like when you go back home to Cavalier? Do a lot of people come up to you and talk about the Bison?
BR: “There’s definitely a lot of people interested in how we’re going to be. They ask me what the next opponent is going to be like. There’s a lot of interest in the program in Cavalier.”