Cover Photo by Darren Gibbins
When Kyle Emanuel scrambled off the field at Toyota Stadium and onto the stage to receive his fourth national championship, he left the field as one of the greatest Bison football players of all time. It wasn’t because he was the first Bison player to win the Buck Buchanan Award for best defensive player in all of FCS. It wasn’t because he tied the NDSU career sack record with 41 quarterback takedowns. It’s because he’s revered as one of the greats through his head-to-the-grindstone attitude and his work when Bison Nation wasn’t looking. This four-time Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll student was more than a sack master, he epitomized what it meant to be a Bison.
Interview by Joe Kerlin
Has it hit you yet that you’re a four-time national champion?
“You know, not really. It’s been a whirlwind. I went straight from Fargo, to Frisco, Frisco to Florida and I’m in Phoenix, Ariz., right now. I’ve been busy with a lot of stuff since the game. It’s hard and been a little weird. It doesn’t even feel like we won; it was just another game. But I think maybe when I get back for the Spring Game, I’ll be able to get back with some teammates and hopefully it will sink in.”
What goes in to deflecting the distractions that came with winning the Buck Buchanan Award?
“Yeah, it was kind of tough right at first with all the social media stuff and then flying out to Philadelphia, but once I got back I think the coaches did a good job of keeping it like any other week. It was just something I had to put behind me and focus on Sam Houston State.”
Was being the best defensive player in the FCS always your goal?
“No. My goal was to be the best player I could be and I thought I could be a pretty good player. First of all, I didn’t even know what the Buck Buchanan award was when I first got to college, but you know I never thought I’d reach that level.”
Did you complete your individual goals you made prior to the season?
“Yeah, I would say so. I wanted to get on some All-American list and basically have the best season of my career this year and with a lot of hard work and with the help of Coach (Jamar) Cain, I think I was able to reach most of those.”
What is it about Bison Pride that is going to stick with you for the rest of your life?
“I think just the way we went about our business, you heard from the coaches who came in. The new coaches and players – we just did things differently at NDSU. … I just think the work and the preparation is something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”
What will the underclassman take with them from this senior class?
“I think just the way we worked and how we prepare. I always come back to that. And just the tradition, I think they (younger guys) got to see that when we were in Frisco when all those former players came out and that’s just something you don’t see at a lot of schools, so hopefully that sticks with them.”
Tell us about your experience in the Shrine Game.
“It was a little bit of a different game. It wasn’t like a college game from the standpoint where you’re rotating every series, but I thought it went well. I thought it was a good experience overall. It was fun being there with (John) Crockett so it was a good experience.”
What are you doing down in Phoenix?
“I’m just training. I’ll be at the same place Billy Turner was at last year. So that’s pretty much my life right now.”
Are you happy Jim Kramer isn’t around to push you to your limit?
“(Laughs) I don’t know if I’m happy he’s not around. Coach Kramer, you know, those will always be one of the hardest workouts in my life. I’ll miss him for sure.”
So when will you be back in town?
“The pro day and I’ll stick around a little after. I’ll hopefully be working with Kramer.”
Coach Jamar Cain’s Take on Emanuel
“There are certain kids who are special and he’s one of those special ones. You don’t get to coach a kid like that every year. Those kids come around maybe once in your career, maybe two times if you’re lucky. I was lucky enough to coach him. He only had six or seven sacks last year and this year putting up 19 is unbelievable. The kid’s missed another six or seven; he easily could’ve had 25 or 26. He could’ve had more than what he had (laughs). But he was definitely a special kid.”