Football

Bison Fullback Luepke Is No Stranger To The End Zone

Redshirt freshman Hunter Luepke found the end zone twice last Saturday for NDSU. While it’s rare to see a Bison fullback score, Luepke is no stranger to it.

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Photo By Bruce Crummy

Hunter Luepke says he knows of Pardon My Take, a popular sports podcast presented by Barstool Sports. There is no word on if the redshirt freshman fullback has listened to an episode of the program though. While he is aware of the show, he is not brushed up on PMT’s “Lowman Trophy”, which is presented each year to the top fullback in college football.

 

The winner is announced just before the Heisman. “Which is fitting to have a fullback lead the way yet again,” said PMT co-host PFT Commenter in a recent blog post. On top of the recognition, the fullback selected wins a trophy, which consists of a large tire with a can of Coors Banquet attached to the top.

Yes, the Lowman Trophy is a little tongue-in-cheek. Take one listen to Pardon My Take and you’ll understand that the show does not take itself too seriously. Never the less, the Lowman Trophy was brought up in Fargo after Luepke scored two touchdowns against South Dakota last Saturday. While Luepke laughs at the idea of the Lowman Trophy, he says he should not get the recognition.

“It’s not really much about me, I’m not really about myself,” Luepke said. Some called for Luepke to be added to the award’s watchlist on social media Saturday. “It’s more about the team, but any recognition for NDSU is pretty cool.”

Luepke scored his first career touchdown on just his third career carry for the Bison on Saturday. It was the first time Luepke had entered the end zone since his high school career. “It was pretty exciting on that first one just to get back into the end zone,” he said. “As I said before, it’s all about the team and whatever the play-caller calls, it’s up to us to execute. We expect every play to get in the end zone.”

Later on in the game, Luepke caught a pass from quarterback Zeb Noland and scored again. Execution was at the top of Luepke’s mind on both plays. “You’re just trying to execute it and make the most of your opportunity. You don’t know how many you’re going to get in the game so you have to do it to the best of your ability,” he said.

While Luepke scored his first career touchdowns as a Bison last weekend, he is no stranger to the end zone. Throughout his football career, he has scored a litany of times. That, in part, is what brought him to North Dakota State. Originally from Spencer, Wisconsin, Luepke finished his prep career at Spencer High School with 5,770 all-purpose yards and 95 touchdowns, according to NDSU’s official webpage. However, we’ve been told Luepke actually scored 99 touchdowns in his prep career, a statistic he also confirmed.

Spencer is a town of just under 2,000 people and because of that, Luepke had to grab NDSU’s attention himself. “I sent my film to NDSU and I e-mailed coach Klieman and coach Goeser, the recruiting coach for Wisconsin,” Luepke said of his recruitment. “I went to a camp here and a combine-type thing in Wisconsin which coach Goeser was at.”

It’s true Luepke was more of an all-purpose back in high school, but NDSU requires a slightly different focus for their fullbacks. Sure, they will catch the occasional pass or take a carry once in a while, but their primary focus is blocking downfield. Luepke may not have had a ton of high school experience in the blocking game, but his career as a wrestler helped him in that facet.

The redshirt freshman was a standout wrestler for Spencer High School. He won the Wisconsin state title at 195 pounds in 2017, making him Spencer’s first state champion. Luepke then went 49-0 his senior season and won the state title at 220 pounds. “Wrestling teaches you a lot about physicality and leverage for blocks too. I think wrestling has really helped me out a lot,” he said.

Blocking is an area of growth for Luepke and he says he has been working on it all season. “Throughout spring ball and into fall camp, I’ve worked a lot on my blocking. That work is starting to pay off on Saturdays,” he said.

With senior fullback Garrett Malstrom marred by a knee injury, Luepke has had to take on a larger role at that vital position. While he will not admit to being a Malstrom-like player, he has been doing his absolute best to fill in. “I’m just trying to do the best that I can do. Garrett is a great blocker for this team and a great leader. I have to step up as much as I can when he’s not out there,” Luepke said. “I know the team missed him and I tried to do my best.”

For the Bison as a team, they will look to finish the regular season undefeated on Saturday against Southern Illinois. Luepke says the team wants to uphold a goal the seniors had at the beginning of the year. “That was one of the main goals of the seniors at the beginning of the season. We just want them to go out the right way, just like they did for the past classes before them,” he said. “It’s all about the seniors and we’re going to do our best this week to make their goal happen.”

Along with that undefeated record is NDSU’s 32-game win streak dating back to 2017. With a win on Saturday, NDSU would tie the longest winning streak in FCS history, also set by NDSU. That streak has been the talk of Fargo all week, but it has yet to be brought up inside the Fargodome. “I don’t think the coaches have talked about that streak at all since I’ve been here,” Luepke said. “We don’t really look at it as a streak, we just want to go 1-0 every week. If we keep doing that, we’re going to be a successful football team. That is what matters here.”

The Salukis are a formidable team compared to past seasons and are fighting for their playoffs lives this weekend. A win over NDSU would surely secure them a seat at the FCS playoff table. To avoid that, Luepke and the Bison will continue to try and execute their offense at a high level. “They are a really physical team and they are quick to the football,” Luepke said of Southern Illinois. “We have to do what we do, run the football, be efficient in the passing game and be physical.”

Hunter Luepke is no stranger to the end zone and his two touchdowns last week may only be a sampling of what we see from the fullback in the future. While he may not lock up the illustrious Lowman Trophy in 2019, he showed that his name should be in the conversation. Luepke and others may not care about some silly award given out by podcast hosts, but it’s hard to deny just how valuable Hunter Luepke can be to NDSU’s offense.

Bison Fullback Luepke Is No Stranger To The End Zone
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