With a lost 2017 season behind him, Greg Menard looks to make an even bigger impact in his final Bison campaign.
It was a bug that riddled North Dakota State in 2017: injuries. Dillon Radunz, Lance Dunn and Dan Marlette were just a few to miss time last season due to injury. For the Bison defense, there may have not been a bigger loss than defensive end Greg Menard. The Lakeville, Minnesota, product lost his entire season to a torn ACL in the first week of fall camp. While his presence both on the field and in the locker room was missed, the Bison still won the FCS National Championship. Menard took a redshirt year in 2017, much like Nick DeLuca did in 2016. This redshirt season has allowed Menard to come back for one more run with North Dakota State. Though not being on the field to savor his teammates’ victory, Menard could not be more proud of the 2017 roster.
“I think it’s just the fact that these are the guys I want to see succeed,” he said in regards to staying positive throughout his recovery process. “It was just great to see them succeed, even if it was at my expense.” Despite the devastating circumstances, Menard was still animated and excited for his fellow teammates on the sideline last season. However, now it is his turn to once again make an impact on NDSU’s championship hopes.
“It’s huge. I think everyone knew Greg wanted to go out on top,” defensive coordinator Matt Entz said. “Him coming back shows our young players the dedication it takes to make you a master of your craft.”
One thing that can be hard for players returning from serious knee injuries like Menard is psyche. How will they react the first time they cut? What will happen after they make their first tackle? Will their leg hold up? These are all inquiries fans and the player ask in the midst of their recovery process. For Menard, it was a process that was challenging and long.
“The recovery process was long and slow. You want to come back and work hard, but you can’t really do that,” he said. “It’s been really fun now with pads on and to hit people again.” Menard has been fully active in practice and has not seen any limitations on what he can do in practice or in games. He also recorded his first sack against Cal Poly on September 1.
It is one thing to return to injury, but it is an entirely different process to return to the player you were before the injury. Menard, who was First Team All-Missouri Valley and a Second Team All-American in 2016 had a lot of work to do. He made a career-high 62 tackles, 15.5 of them for loss and recorded 11 sacks in that season. Now, he wants to be even better and more productive in his redshirt senior season.
“My mindset is to get back to where I was and get better,” he said.
There has never been a doubt in Menard’s mind that he can eclipse what he did in 2016. He possesses the skill and speed to overpower and outrun offensive linemen. He rejoins an already talented Bison defensive front. In Menard’s absence, the Bison had close to three (2.73) sacks per game which was 22nd best in the country. They were also in the upper echelon of total sacks and sack yards. With the addition of Menard, one has to assume that NDSU will only improve those numbers in 2018.
Forecasters are also predicting a big season from Menard as well. He was named to the preseason All-Missouri Valley and All-American teams. Along with Robbie Grimsley, he has also been named to the Buck Buchanan watch list. That award is given annually to the most outstanding defensive player in FCS. Former Bison and current NFL players Kyle Emanuel and Marcus Williams were previous winners of the award.
However, Menard is not focused on the potential accolades he may accrue throughout 2018. Menard also notes that the team’s primary goal at the beginning of the season is to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference. This is a feat the Bison have accomplished each of the last seven seasons.
Stepping back onto Gate City Bank Field is something Menard has looked forward to since getting injured last season. “I think I’m going to be super excited,” he said. However, he is quick to note that he will get back to business rather quickly.
“Once the first tackle or hit happens, it will be back to normal I think,” he said. “Just sticking to my assignment.”
It has not been an easy journey for Greg Menard, but it has been a process he has taken head-on. While he has the possibility of playing in the NFL next season, he is not focused on that goal quite yet. First, it’s the Missouri Valley and then, FCS. Greg Menard wants to go out on top and you’d be either brave or stubborn to try and stand in his way.
Total Tackles: 125
Tackles For Loss: 33.5
Sack Yards: 164
Forced Fumbles: 4