Photos by Hillary Ehlen and NDSU Athletics
North Dakota State football’s recruiting footprint starts with North Dakota and Minnesota. However, players from several states make up the past and current rosters, though, from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois and Florida. They come to Fargo to play football and get an education. But some turned it into their home. We talked to two former players who traveled a long way from home to go to NDSU and decided to stay after their career was over.
NDSU career (2011-2015)
Two-time FCS All-American and three-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference punter who graduated as the NDSU and Missouri Valley Football Conference career leader with a 44.55 punting average.
Place of Employment
Northeast Region Sales Director
Lucky’s 13, Maxwells, Spitfire and Chick-Fil-A
Brickhouse Tavern and Bulldog Tap
NDSU career (2003-2007)
Led the Bison to a 20-2 record in his last two years as the quarterback and ranks No. 2 in NDSU career passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.
Place of Employment
Gate City Insurance Agency
Divot’s for Breakfast, Herd & Horns for lunch, Spitfire for dinner
Chubs and Herd & Horns
Question #1: First impressions of Fargo…
LeCompte: The first time I visited Fargo, I was surprised, to be honest. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I had this incorrect notion that Fargo was just a freezing cold little town somewhere in North Dakota. It proved me wrong. I got here for my official visit, everyone from the airport employees to a stranger at Scheels was genuinely nice, the town was bigger than I expected and I legitimately thought, “Well, I haven’t seen anything football yet but I can totally make this work.” It just felt right. I loved it.
Walker: My first trip to Fargo was in early January of my senior year of high school. It was freezing cold, but the atmosphere around the football team during my visit, the campus personnel that I met and the community were very warm and welcoming. Fargo was my third official visit during my recruiting process of finding a college, and throughout the visit, I kept getting more impressed and feeling that I wanted to make NDSU and Fargo the next phase of my life. When I first moved up here, my plan was to be at NDSU for five years and then move back to Illinois where I grew up, but after my first 18 months of being in Fargo, I knew this was now home.
Question #2: Has your perception of Fargo changed?
LeCompte: I wouldn’t say change. You just realize that some of the things you hear about North Dakota and Fargo are a bit exaggerated, except the cold. The one thing that changed was my opinion on staying. I always told myself, the minute I was done playing I would go home, that it wasn’t for everyone. The longer I lived here, the more I grew to love it and couldn’t walk away.
Walker: From day one, I knew Fargo was a special place, but the longer I live here, and after leaving for a couple years for a career opportunity, it is easy to say that Fargo has some of the greatest people around and is one of the top places to raise a family. I have been married for nine years to Katie and have two young boys, Kellen who is 5.5 years old and Briggs who is almost 2, and there is not a better place to call home and be part of the community.
Question #3: When did you realize Fargo could be home?
LeCompte: It was pretty early on.. When I was choosing a school, I had a checklist and one of the things on the list was regarding the community and the town the school was in. Sure, I was committing to play football, but I wanted to make sure that if football didn’t work or if I was presented with opportunities after school in Fargo, I could see myself living here. So the first time I came here, I just kind of knew. It had that right feeling. I remember looking at my dad and saying, “Hey, this is it. I’m going to commit.” Living here through college just reinforced what I initially thought.
Walker: Shortly after coming to Fargo, I realized that this was home. During college, I met my wife, who is from Fargo and also wanted to stay in the area, so it was an easy decision. Family has always been a very important part of my life and I cannot think of a better place to raise our two young boys. The community is great, and the education is fantastic to raise a family. I am also very lucky to work with Gate City, a company that cares about customers, employees and our communities. I know that when I go to work every day, I am able to make a difference in people’s lives, and then get to go home to a great family of my own.
Question #4: What did you learn after graduating?
LeCompte: I would say I learned how great of a town Fargo is for starting a career and life after football. It looks good in your head but then experiencing it is something else. There’s so much opportunity for work, affordable, growing surroundings – like the West Fargo area – great schools and tons of stuff to do. Additionally, I would say things I learned about Fargo and experienced while playing were reinforced after my playing career. For example, the people are one of a kind. Everyone is so genuinely nice. Whether they know the Bison roster from 1 to 99 or have never heard of you before, the people are incredible. It makes living in Fargo truly unique.
Walker: I realized more that Fargo is not only a great college town but more importantly a great community. As I continue to grow as a professional and a parent, I know there is no better place to be than in Fargo. There are always opportunities to do things around the town, and we are also close enough to other communities for when we want to get out of town. I have lived other places, but the sense of community that Fargo has is unmatched.
Question #5: What does Fargo mean to you?
LeCompte: This question is nearly impossible to answer. I will forever be indebted to Fargo. I came here in 2011 to pursue a childhood dream. Fargo was there for me through it all. It gave me NDSU and football, which was a family that was there for me through everything. It was a safe haven when my parents were battling illness and I couldn’t be there with them. It picked me up when I was down, and kept me grounded when things were getting very high with the football program. Most importantly, it introduced me to my best friend and the love of my life, my wife Katie and her amazing family. I cannot wait to start a family of my own here in Fargo.
Walker: Fargo is home. I was not born and raised here, however, Fargo is where I now call home and am proud to do so. In the 15 years I have lived in Fargo, the town and North Dakota State University have brought many opportunities my way which I am very grateful for. I graduated with a quality education and many great experiences on and off the football field. I am married with two boys who keep us busy and full of joy every day. I work with a company based out of Fargo that values not only their customers and communities but also their employees. Fargo has done so many great things for me, and I hope that I can be just as impactful back as I have benefited.
*This article originally appeared in Fargo By Fargo.