Photos by Darren Gibbins and NDSU Athletics
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. The Bison football team is no exception with its melting pot of talent that arrives in Fargo from across America. It’s this fusion of skill and personality that makes the NDSU football locker room as attractive as any in the country for aspiring Division I football players from Florida, California and everywhere in between. Eight current members of the Bison tell their stories of how they landed in Fargo and one future Bison explains his reasoning behind picking the Herd.
Recruiting Coordinator: Scott Fuchs & Matt Entz
Position: Defensive end
Hometown: Coon Rapids, Minn.
High School: Blaine High School
- University of North Dakota
- University of Minnesota
How He Got Here
Caleb Butler had plenty of options on what he wanted to do as a college athlete. A handful of schools recruited him as a football player, but NDSU and the University of Minnesota had conversations with Butler about football, wrestling and track and field.
Once he took a visit for NDSU football, he knew it was the place and sport for him. Former offensive line coach Scott Fuchs talked to Butler about a scholarship. But when Fuchs left for Wyoming along with most of the other coaches, Butler was offered a walk-on opportunity by the new staff.
“When I heard that they were leaving, about a week later coach (Matt) Entz came to my school and said we’re still interested in you,” Butler recalled. “He said even though the other coaching staff is leaving, we still want you to be a part of our team.”
It didn’t matter to Butler that he was a preferred walk-on. The first couple years were challenging, but he worked his way to a half scholarship, then a full scholarship when he won the starting defensive end job last spring.
The Bison don’t do anything fancy when telling a player he’s now on a full ride. Head coach Chris Klieman likes to do it 1-on-1. And it was an interaction that Butler still chuckles about.
“Coach Klieman called me into the office and said he wanted to have a meeting,” Butler said. “He brought me in and told me since I won the starting spot, I’d be on full scholarship. I didn’t really react that much. I’m an even-keeled guy, but I was excited on the inside. On the outside, it was just a straight face with a small smile. And he said, ‘do you realize what I just told you?’”
“Looking at the players interacting with each other, it was amazing. You could see the chemistry and the bond between them. I knew I wanted that.”
“My first game visit they were playing Ferris State. It was a blowout, but the atmosphere was amazing. Seeing the lights shut off, the phones come on, the spotlight and the countdown, it was amazing.”
Challenges Of Playing As A Walk-On
“It was pretty challenging. Freshman year you’re in the dorms and don’t have to worry about rent payments. But the hardest times were when you had to pay off tuition. My family was a huge help with that. It was amazing with how much weight they took off my shoulders.