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Senior Moments

Article and Interviews by Joe Kerlin, Andrew Jason, Candice Grimm and Madalyn Laske

With their college days nearing the end, we sat down with all 24 seniors on the Bison football as they reflected their amazing careers at North Dakota State University.

 

Every year the football program looks to its seniors for leadership and camaraderie. That relationship between the seniors and the rest of the team is so deep, Zach Vraa can’t even catch up to it. It’s unlikely a group of men from all around the country could have the ability to come together and create another dynasty at NDSU. But then you notice the passion that flows from each player while on the field, their willingness to fight for not just their personal glory, but greatness for their unit, their team. For this group of seniors, it’s not the 40+ wins or the stats that matter, but rather the rings, the brotherhood and the flights to Frisco.

 

 

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#12        Cooper Wahlo Jr.

Position: Wide Receiver

Hometown: Woodbury, Minn.

High School: Woodbury High School

Bio: After battling an injury that cut his junior season short, Wahlo Jr. has pushed himself to become one of the hardest workers on the team. Wahlo Jr. hauled in his first receiving touchdown against Delaware State early this season.

Accolades:

  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award
  • *Missouri Valley Conference Honor Roll

The Interview:

BI: What’s it been like to play with this group of senior?

Cooper Wahlo Jr.: “It’s going to go down as one of the best experiences in my life. Just how close we have grown over these years, it’s really like a brotherhood. All of these guys have become a part of my family. It started with the seniors from years past, goofing around hanging out and now it becomes who we are. When coach talks about our togetherness it really about how close we are.”

BI: What did you learn the most through your years here?

CW: “I have learned that it’s all about the team. When you get recruited, sometimes you get a big head. But when you get here you’re taught really early that it’s about the team. Whatever you do is team first.

BI: You’re the burner of the team, right? Are you still the fastest?

CW: “(laughs) It’s gotten slower, but I’m still one of the fastest. I got beat out by Bryan Shepherd. He beat me out so he got me.”

BI: How have you filled your role on the team?

CW: “Anywhere I can contribute, I’m more than happy to do it. If it’s making a tackle or giving the guys a rest at receiver.”

BI: What’s this about the special teams unit calling themselves, “the special forces?”

CW: (laughs) “Tim Polesak started the whole thing. It’s just how special teams are a huge part of the game, and it can make a difference.”

BI: Anything you want to say to the rest of the seniors?

CW: “Thanks for making the experience one hell of an experience. This is something I will never forget.”

BI: What’s your favorite memory of your career here?

CW: “Probably be, when I scored my first touchdown.”

BI: What is one of your favorite memories off the field?

CW: “One thing is our meetings the night before the game. It’s crazy. Highlight of the week. We just do crazy stuff. We have meetings and then the coaches let us get together. And the seniors put on a skit every week.”

BI: What’s the lasting impression this class is going to leave on the program?

CW: “Just showing the young guys that hard work. If you want to be on top you gotta work. There are no short cuts. I feel like this senior class and what we have been through we have been blessed with our hard work mentality and giving it to the young guys.”

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#29        AJ Van Voorhis

Position: Defensive Back

Hometown: Champlin, Minn.

High School: Champlin Park High School

Bio: With over 50 games of experience, the strong safety is the captain of the “Special Forces.” Van Voorhis has nestled into becoming a reliable performer in the secondary and has unparalleled closing speed to bring down kick and punt returners.

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

AJ Van Voohis: “Bison pride to me is a group of guys that come together not knowing each other of the bat, but quickly becoming a family, people who care about each other and are fighting for the same goals. It’s what makes us, the Bison program, so good. There are so many guys on the same page, we love each other and genuinely care about each other.”

BI: What were you expecting when you first came here?

AV: “NDSU was always one of the schools I wanted to go to and knowing that my dad came here, I was really excited for the opportunity. Wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When you hear about Division I football and all this other stuff, you know, you’re going to see the best competition in the country and so I was a little nervous, but what’s good was that we had such a close class, we were able to come together and make the transition from high school to college really easy and a fun experience. It’s been a fun ride.”

BI: What has kept you around this program year after year, instead of transferring somewhere else?

AV: “Probably the guys. Not only, the seniors, but we have great underclassman. We have great coaches. We have a sign in our locker room that says “Those who stay will be Champions” and after my first year, we were 3-8. And you know, you wonder ‘Is this what it’s going to be like?’ But, we had great senior leadership the next year and it just built and built and I feel like that year kind of brought us closer knowing this is not where we want to be. It motivated us to get better and better. All the guys, the camaraderie and how close we are, that’s what makes it easy to stay.”

BI: When did you know that your major role on this team was going to be on special teams and not defense?

AV: “Probably my red shirt freshman, sophomore year. We brought in a good recruiting class. I think they named me Special Teams captain my sophomore year, I’m not quite sure. I focused a lot of my attention on Special Teams and I focused a lot of myself on that part of the game. I learned all the spots on all the teams, so if I needed to be filled in on anything I’d be able to do it. I still focused on defense, I mean; you can’t just focus on one and let the other one slide. I focus a lot on Special Teams, but I also take a lot of pride on being ready when I situation arises, I can step in and fill the spot if the opportunity presents itself.”

BI: Looking back at your career, what have you been most proud of individually?

AV: “Probably just being able to learn the defense. I mean, it’s not super complex, but there are a lot of moving parts you need to learn. I remember coming in as a freshman thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to learn all this stuff’ but I mean, Coach Klieman has taught me things, and all the coaches, on different aspects of the game. They have taught me things I didn’t quiet learn but I feel like now I’m proud of myself that I know a lot more about the game, different situations, and my football I.Q. has risen tremendously. I have a broader knowledge of the game.”

BI: Without mentioning the championships, how do you think this senior class has made an impact on the Bison program?

AV: “I think that this class has set a good example on how to bring the team and people together. There’s not a lot of separation between a fifth year senior or incoming freshman. We’re pretty welcoming. In the pass, there was some separation, the freshman kind of kept to themselves and the seniors, you just kind of looked up to them you didn’t really say much, but I feel like there’s a really interactive locker room. I think that’s something the senior class should be mentioned for, how I think we have brought the whole team together. It’s a very workable environment. Everyone’s on the same page, everyone knows each other, we get along. It’s a great environment to be in when you’re not worrying about someone else, you can just focus on what you need to do knowing that someone else is going to do their job, you don’t have to worry about that.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

AV: “It’s been a fun ride. It hasn’t always been easy, but look where we are now.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

AV: “After the first national championship, you could just look into my class, and the class above me eyes’— we had all been a part of that 3-8 season and just being able to look at each other and all that hard work in the off season, all that extra stuff, extra reps that we did throughout winter, spring and summer – you could just look at each other in everyone’s eyes and tell that they knew it all had all paid off. That’s probably the best memory I have with the senior class.”

 

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#1          Marcus Williams

Position: Defensive Back

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

High School: Hopkins High School

Bio: Coming in as a freshman, Williams was a speedy cornerback that has evolved into a prolific lockdown corner. Williams fought through various injuries that plagued his senior season, but it hasn’t stopped him from intercepting more passes than any defender in Bison history.

Accolades:

  • *2011, 2012, 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team
  • *2012 American Football Coaches Association FCS All-America Team
  • *2011, 2012 Associated Press FCS All-America First Team
  • *2012 Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year
  • *2011, 2012 College Sporting News FCS Fabulous 50
  • *2010 MVFC All-Newcomer Team

The Interview:

BI: What has it been like to play with this senior class?

Marcus Williams: “It’s been great. It’s a great class. We all came in here together back when we were 3-8 that year. Just from the transition we made, and switching things around, we couldn’t ask for better leaders who were here before us, and now we took on that role, leading the younger players, we’re just trying to keep this program on track.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

MW: “That I love you guys and I wouldn’t want to do it with no other crew in the world. I mean, we’re the best class in the nation, and I had a great time playing here with you guys.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

MW: “Just how we’re all together, as one. There’s not one senior on the team that I’m not friends with. I could call any of them and they know they can call me if they need anything, I got their back and they’ve got my back.”

BI: “Without mentioning the championships, how do you think this senior class has made an impact on the Bison program?

MW: “I feel we made an impact on the Bison program in a big way. Just from leadership, and learning, and taking this team and this program seriously, and fighting for what we really wanted. And we knew when we got here what our goals were. We set goals, our coaches set goals for us, and we went out there and practiced hard every single day and accomplished them.”

BI: Explain the maturation process players go through from their freshman to senior years as far as a teammate and a human being.

MW: “There’s so much I could say, because coming in as a freshman, I mean, you don’t know what you’re doing really. You’re just out here, you don’t know if you’re going to play ever, you’re just going to practice, you think it’s just another day. But when you keep going and become a senior, these practices really count and there’s only so many more for us seniors. It’s counting down now, and you don’t really realize that until your senior year because your freshman year you’re just getting into the program, sophomore year you’re trying to play, get going. Junior year, you start seeing a little bit, and senior year it really hits you. You just have to take every play like it’s your last because you never know when it is your last. You have to go out there and play your heart out.”

 

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#2          Brendin Pierre

Position: Defensive Back

Hometown: Miramar, Fla.

High School: Miramar High School

Bio: Undersized and undervalued, Pierre came to NDSU and immediately made an enormous impact on the defense. Pierre has played a valuable role both on the scout team and on the field during NDSU’s back-to-back championship runs.

The Interview:

BI: What has it been like to play with the senior class?

Brendin Pierre: “The senior class has been together for practically five years, most of us have been together since our true freshman years. The senior class I can honestly say is outstanding fun. That’s the main thing that we get from this group. We’re a band of brothers. We all talk to each other. We all know each other. With that being said, we like to play for one another.”

BI: How has Fargo welcomed you, being that you are so far away from home?

BP: “At first it was a hard transition for myself, being so far away from home. The chemistry that we have as teammates. Being my freshman year, a lot of people opened up their arms to me. Knowing that I was so far away they opened up their houses and their parents and their families. I became part of them as well as the team. Not only the team, but also their own personal families. That being said, the welcoming was more than grateful.”

BI: What’s one thing you want to say to your fellow senior class?

BP: “That I love them. I love the senior class. This team is very different from any team that I’ve been on. When I was in high school I played with a team with people that were individuals. Everyone was trying to get their own. Their own stats, their own pieces of the pie. This team, everyone makes sacrifices for one another. It’s not about who’s the guy, who’s the glamorous person on TV. We all love each other and we all play for one another. So after the season, after the game, it’s going to be emotional because a lot of us are going to go our separate ways. And I want to tell them that I love them.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take from your year with these senior guys what would that be?

BP: “Winning the national championship for the third time, as a senior, with these guys.”

BI: Besides those championships what has the senior class contributed to the Bison Program?

BP: “I think it made an impact in every phase of the Bison Program. Not only on the field but as well as off the field, because as the senior class, we help mentor the young guys. In the past, some of them haven’t gotten the right guidance as far as sticking together with their own class. We have some people that left. This senior class stuck to the old saying in the locker room: “Those who stay will be champions”. We really keyed in on that. That’s why we stuck together. That’s why the younger guys on the team can understand that collectively, if you stay together you’ll be able to do great things as we did. So we put our stamp on that and we affected the program in that kind of way.”

BI: How have you matured as a player from your freshman to senior year?

BP: “I obviously know much more now. Being a freshman I didn’t really understand much that I was doing. Being unselfish. Doing what it takes to help the town. Coming in at first, I was looking out for myself. I’m doing everything I possibly can to make myself better but as you get older and you mature as a player it’s not only about yourself it’s about the entire team. You’re doing anything you possibly can to help the team. You gotta help the next man within your own position group to know his assignment, to be better than you. That’s what you gotta do to help the team. It’s not only about you. It’s about the team. The overall work of the team.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

BP: “Brotherhood. We have that brotherhood and that unbreakable bond to get up and work hard for one another. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about the coaches it’s not about the fans it’s not about what happens between the lines. It’s how you feel for the next guy and the team. That’s what it means to me basically, the team.”

 

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#94        Danny Luecke

Position: Defensive Tackle

Hometown: Fargo, N.D.

High School: Fargo South High School

Bio: Luecke has really come into his role this season. While being a leader off the field, Luecke has had his best season on the field. The Fargo native is a strong physical player who has become a valuable asset to the Bison defense.

Accolades:

  • *MVFC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award
  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

Danny Luecke: “It means discipline, and caring about your team. There is a love out there that you’re going to do every little detail right because of the people next to you. I think that just carries through. It’s a family aspect. You do the details right, the little things that could sly by and no one would notice, you do those things because you’re disciplined and you do those things.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

DL: “I love ‘em! It’s been five years, four for some of the guys that didn’t red shirt, but we’ve grown together. We’ve gone through hard times. Our freshman year we were 3-8. And ugh, that definitely brought us closer together and we’ve learned from the lows and the highs. We’ve learned to care about each other through it all.”

BI: What are some of the challenges that come with being a walk-on?

DL: “From the get go, you just know you’re not as talented as some of the other guys. And that took me a couple years to fully admit, but I think that’s the truth. Despite that and knowing that, I knew I had to do every detail right. I knew I needed to push myself beyond some of the other guys, that I couldn’t take a day off from rehab or treatment. I knew I had to do every little thing right and I think that’s made me the player I am. The extra focus I had was knowing I was a little less talented then some of the other guys, that made me push harder, gave me a greater focus.”

BI: What has kept you around the program?

DL: “For me, I think most guys will say there was a time when we all thought about quitting, thought about giving up. For me, the biggest thing in my life is my faith; it’s where I get all my strength. Through Jesus and my relationship with Him, it’s where all my strength comes from, it’s not on my own, but it’s from Him. And that is what has propelled me forward in all areas in my life and not just on the football field.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

DL: “I think something that will stick with me is, we have the front row of the team room is where all the seniors get to sit. There are 24 of us, but it’s not always full. I think we all put other people in front of ourselves on this team, and that’s something I’ll take away. It’s not fighting to see who can get in that front row to be closest, it’s ‘Hey no, I’ll let my other teammate sit here’ and I think that’s something I’ll always remember, we’ve always put each other before ourselves.”

BI: How has playing for the Bison connected you to your teammates after you’re done playing with them?

DL: “These are memories that will last a lifetime and friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. How keeping in contact happens in the future, I’m not sure. I’m not there yet. But when I get there I’ll definitely want to stay in contact with my position group and other seniors, and other friends I’ve made along the way.”

BI: What has it meant to your personally growing up in North Dakota and playing for NDSU?

DL: “It means a lot. My dad worked here in the Ag department for 30+ years. I’m just proud to be a Bison and proud to be from North Dakota.”

 

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#16        Brock Jensen

Position: Quarterback

Hometown: Waupaca, Wis.

High School: Waupaca High School

Bio: The man, the myth and the legend is the leader to the Bison’s unstoppable offense.  Holding the starting quarterback position since his sophomore season, Jensen has made his way into the record books in multiple statistical categories.

Accolades:  

  • *2013 MVFC Offensive Player of the Year
  • *2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team
  • *2012 NCAA FCS National Championship MVP
  • *2012 College Sporting News FCS Playoff MVP
  • *2012 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second Team

The Interview

BI: Before the last game, whenever that may be, what are you going to say to the guys?

Brock Jensen: “I have thought about it actually. The first thing I would say is that I thank god for the opportunity to play this game and putting me here in Fargo. Put me on such a great team with much a great coaching staff and great players. We have seen it all as far as our career goes. When we first came in, all of our fifth year guys, we were a part of that 3-8 team. We were red shirting at the time, but we were a part of that. We knew what it was like to be at the bottom and it didn’t feel very good. I think us all as a class said that we aren’t going to let this happen when our time comes. We refused to let that happen and the togetherness and the camaraderie and the relationships that have been built since day one have been incredible and are something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. There are a lot of special guys on this senior class that are special to me.”

BI: Are you going to remember the grind from when you were 3-8 more than where you are now?

BJ: “I think just not so much those. That is, in all reality, where we started. We started 3-8 when we got here, regardless of we played or not, we were still a part of that team. We were grinding just as hard as those guys in practice, giving them good looks on the scout team. It’s something to look back on down the road and say hey, remember when we were on scout team and we weren’t very good but we were grinding still and that’s when it all started. You continue to work hard every year and you continue to build relationships with everybody and that’s how a team is formed. How camaraderie is formed. That’s how you become a good football team.”

BI: What’s going to happen to all of your relationships with your teammates after football?

BJ: “Something that you’ll have for the rest for your life and is something that’s extremely special. It’s something you can’t really put into words and how it truly means, but those are the relationships you build. You go through those things, you bleed together, you sweat together, and you cry together, you do everything. It seems cliché, but you truly do. You truly go through hard times together and that’s something that you share. That’s something you can hang onto for a very long time.”

BI: What’s the lasting impact that this class has made?

BJ: “I think just showing the younger guys what it takes to carry on the tradition of being a Bison football player. It takes a great deal of dedication, commitment, sacrifice and all those things. To show them what it means through actions and not just by saying and telling them. That’s something that the younger guys can take with them and that’s how traditions carry on.”

BI: What were you telling Grant Olson on the sidelines after his injury?

BJ: “I was just praying for him. I have known him for a long time and just letting him know what he has meant for this team and what he’s meant to me as a teammate. He’s a rare breed. The Grant Olson type guys don’t come around a whole heck of a lot. I was just letting him know that and just telling him to keep his head up and to never get down on himself. He has given every ounce of effort and commitment to this program and that’s something he can be very proud of.”

BI: Is how this team responds going to show the true colors of this senior class?

BJ: “Yeah, you know even though we lost the glue of our team, you know what; we’re the type of program where it’s the next guy in. We’re the type of program that has that mentality. It’s tough to say in this situation obviously with a team leader like Grant but it is and it comes down to the next guy up. The next guy has to make a play, the next guy has to step into that role and be able to get it done because that’s what good programs do. That’s what we have done. Last year with Colten’s injury, it was the just the next guy up mentality and we have to keep it that way because in order to keep winning you have to think about it that way.”

BI: What do guys like Derrick Lang or some of the other players that that don’t get a lot of publicity mean to this program?

BJ: “Derrick Lang came in as a walk-on first of all and. For me personally, I have the greatest amount of appreciation and respect for what walk-ons do. Any time a guy wants to walk-on at a program he first of all believes in himself which is awesome. He’s out to prove that he can play at this level and earn myself a scholarship. That’s something Derrick has done. And something he has done through the course of his career. He’ll never realize how much I respect him as a person and as a player, but like just guys like that. Doing the things he is asked to do is something that makes a good program go.”

BI: When you’re an old man and you are thinking about the times you had with the football team, what are you going to think of?

BJ: “I think just all of the guys in general. The good time I have spent with them. We’re not going to necessarily remember the score of this game and that game. We’ll remember the wins and losses and stuff like that and maybe some certain plays that have stuck out in our minds but what I’ll truly remember is all the good times we had together in the locker room, in practice and just those type of time. Those are the type of times that mean the most and you take with you.”

 

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#22        Sam Ojuri

Position: Running Back

Hometown: Barrington, Ill.

High School: Barrington High School

Bio: Need to convert a 4th down? Ojuri is your guy.  Not many running backs can pound through the pile and still manage to gain yards quite like Ojuri can. Splitting series the last two seasons with John Crockett, the relentless running-back has over 3,000 career rushing yards.

Accolades:

  • *2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second Team
  • *2011, 2012 College Football Performance.com Running Back Watch List

The Interview:

BI: What is like to play with all of these senior guys?

Sam Ojuri: “I’d say it’s a pleasure. We came in five years ago and set a goal of one day we’re going to win a National Championship. We worked so hard to get where we are. To start from where we did five years ago, we all walked into the dorms on the same day, all went through the same rookie initiations, which they don’t do anymore. It’s like a brotherhood. We’re really close.”

BI: As freshman did you ever think you would come this far?

SO: “The word ‘National Championship’ was tossed around a couple times. From where we started to where we are now, we definitely upped the level and raised the standard here.”

BI: After your final game this year with these guys, what would you say?

SO: “I love you guys.”

BI: What memory of this senior class would you take with you? Everybody is saying the National Championships so if you want to say something different, feel free.

SO: “There are definitely a lot of things that weren’t as good, but since we did it together it made it that much better. I’d definitely have to say the National Championship, both of them.”

BI: Besides the championships, how else has this senior class contributed to the Bison program?

SO: “A majority of us have been playing since we were freshmen and sophomores. We all started young. We’ve been able to contribute a major amount. Not just the high school class that graduated in ’09 but also the ’10 class. We’ve definitely raised the standard here.”

BI: How have you matured from your freshman to senior year?

SO: “I can say that I’ve matured a lot. My freshman year, I got into a lot of trouble. I ended up having to sit out my second year so I learned a lot. It was a learning experience. I’m actually glad that it happened. My red shirt year, I got to take a step back and look at things from an outside perspective. I came here as a boy and I’m going to leave here a man.”

BI: You had a great year behind DJ McNorton and then John Crockett came along. What was it like to be THE guy in high school and then come here and have to split carries?

SO: “It’s tough for me to get mad because when DJ was a senior, I was a sophomore and splitting carries with him. He set such a good example. Whenever I do want to get mad or get down on myself, I think ‘what would DJ do?’ He always had a smile on his face. He was never negative. I want to be the next guy and do my job. John’s going to do his job too. It’s all going to work out at the end of the day.”

BI: What’s your relationship like with the freshmen?

SO: “We talk to the freshmen. It’s different if you play offense or defense because if you’re on offense, you mostly talk to the defensive guys because those are the scout guys. We always keep those guys because I remember being a freshman and it’s not easy coming from high school and playing and coming to college and doing the scout team. Basically, our job is to set a good example and always keep those guys positive because they’re the next in line. Our relationships are always going good with our teammates.”

BI: What’s next for you?

SO: “I’d like to train to see how much further I can get playing football. I’m going to leave it at that and we’ll see what happens.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

SO: “Bison Pride means the team, the team, the team. The team is way more important than yourself and it’s more about your decisions and how they’re going to affect the team. How everyone does their job and you have to do your job. That’s Bison Pride to me.”

 

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#60        Ryan Drevlow

Position: Defensive Tackle

Hometown: Gwinner, N.D.

High School: North Sargent High School

Bio: A main component in the Bison’s defensive line, Drevlow is one of the most skilled nose guards in the FCS. Hailing from Gwinner, N.D., Drevlow has solidified himself as a force at the line of scrimmage, tallying over 50 games in his career.

Accolades:

  • *2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team
  • *2012 FCS Athletic Directors Academic All-Star
  • *2012 Capital One Academic All-District 6 Team
  • *Nominated for NCAA Elite 89 Academic Award/2012 FCS Championship
  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

RD: “Just being part of the Bison tradition and it’s not always about winning but it’s about being a champion in every aspect of your life. Whether it’s on field or off the field, you conduct yourself to the highest order.”

BI: What’s the relationship like with the senior class?

RD: “We’re a very tight knit group. We have been here for four or five years but everybody is friendly with everyone. Nobody hates each other. We all get along. We would all go out to the ends of the Earth to help each other out.”

BI: What’s it been like coming from your freshman to senior year?

RD: “It’s been a growth of learning how to play the game. You come in and everybody thinks they know everything there is about football. You realize that you necessarily don’t know so much. It’s a growing process.”

BI: Is there one particular memory that stands out from your senior class?

RD: “Probably winning the back to back National Championships.”

BI: Leaving the championships behind, what has this NDSU class contributed to the program?

RD: “We’ve developed a style of leadership. Just the way we’ve played, we give it our all on every down. We feel like we’ve left it in a better place than where we started.”

BI: After your final game together, what would be the one thing you say to your senior class?

RD: “Thanks for the great memories. I love you guys. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for you. Hopefully we’ll stay in touch.”

BI: What has it meant to you growing up in North Dakota and then playing for NDSU?

RD: “It’s meant a lot. It’s always been my dream to play football for the Bison. To live it out is unreal. It’s something that you only dream about.”

 

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#40        Andrew Grothmann

Position: Fullback

Hometown: Hillsboro, N.D.

High School: Hillsboro High School

Bio: Grothmann paved the road for two running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards last season. Grothmann has played over 50 games at full-back, has blocked relentlessly for two FCS Championship teams and continues to create space in the backfield playing a key role in the Bison’s offense.

Accolades:

  • *2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team
  • *2011, 2012 Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Academic Honorable Mention
  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award
  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll

The Interview:

BI: What’s your favorite memory of this senior class?

Andrew Grothmann: “We got some special players in the class that have done some special things and we’re 3+ years in, that’s a lot of memories.”

BI: What is one thing you would say to these guys before the last one?

AG: “I would just tell them that I respect all of them and what we have accomplished and hopefully at the end of the year the next group of guys can look at us and remember all the special memories with them.”

BI: I’m going to come back to it because you juked it the last time, do you have a memory of this senior class that sticks out?

AG: “It’s so hard to be specific and nail something down but the championships are always going to be something you remember. The one thing that I think we’ll remember is the time away from football. The times we were eating at the dining center and other places away from football. You won’t remember the practices, you’ll remember some of the plays, but the times you’ll remember is the things that happened away from football. Those memories are as big as the ones made on the field.”

BI: What’s the lasting impact this senior class will make on the program?

AG: “I think we have done a phenomenal job. There are so many good guys that have set examples for the younger guys and the way we have lived on the tradition of the past players here. We have obviously have had a lot of success and effected the younger guys, but also the stuff we have done away from football that they help in the community and be role models for the kids.”

BI: You were a part of that community before you came to NDSU. What’s that like playing for the hometown team?

AG: “It’s pretty neat because growing up you watching the Bison play and you always said ‘oh, that would be neat to play for the Bison one day.’ It’s important and a big pride thing being from North Dakota. It’s special.”

BI: When did feel that pride that this program has?

AG: “It was probably my first game I got to play in which was Kansas four years ago. After that game, in the locker room, obviously it was a big win, but the pride that senior class had from winning that game was pretty neat. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about that, but that win in that locker room after that game was really happy.”

BI: It feels like you have been with these guys forever. What do the relationships you have made here mean going forward after you graduate?

AG: “There’s a lot of guys on the team that I would do anything for and I have a really good relationship with and they’re just really good guys and that’s who you want to surround yourself with. Wherever our dreams will take us, we’ll still be in contact with them, and I’m sure we’ll all meet back at the Bison games.”

 

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#34        Grant Olson

Position: Linebacker

Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.

High School: Wayzata High School

Bio: The glue of the Bison defense has developed into one of the most valuable linebackers in the FCS. Each season, Olson outperforms himself and continues to impress from game to game proving his title as the leader of the Bison defense.

Accolades:

  • *2012 College Sporting News FCS Fabulous Fifty
  • *2012 College Sports Journal FCS All-America Honorable Mention
  • *2012, 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team
  • *2012 College Football Performance.com FCS Playoffs Weekly Award

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

GO: “Bison Pride means to me everyone sacrificing their own personal agenda for the betterment of the team. Simply put, just being team first guys at the end of the day. We don’t have a lot of selfish guys on the team. Guys buy into the program and we’re better because of it. Everyone plays together, everyone works hard and everyone makes sacrifices.”

BI: How does the coaching on the team help you become a better player and help create a bond among the team?

GO: “I think the coaches obviously do a great job setting the tone for the direction of the program. Obviously it starts with Coach Bohl and all the other assistant coaches do a great job too. Just the things they preach in terms of hard work, fundamentals and preparation on and off the field. Just teaching us how to succeed, not just in football, but it’s the same skills that carry over to life as well. I think they do a phenomenal job doing those things.”

BI: After your final game, you’re all going to go your own way. What’s one thing you’d like to say to the senior class?

GO: “It’s been an absolute honor to play with you guys. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun doing it and I hope to see you soon.”

BI: What’s a favorite memory with the senior class? I’m going to cut you off from saying the championship because everyone else is saying it.

GO: “I don’t think there’s necessarily one thing in particular. When I think back on the senior guys, it’s not a memory of one or two guys. All the fond memories seem to be together in big groups. There always seems to be five to ten of us hanging out. It’s always a lot of us and we’re always having fun together. We always enjoy being together. That’s probably the thing I’m going to miss the most.”

BI: What about off the field? How does your relationship with the guys go off the field?

GO: “It’s great. I guess that’s what kinds of ties into, just spending time together and enjoying that time spent together. It’s not just one or two guys hanging out a bunch of us always seem to get together no matter what we’re doing.”

BI: Obviously some of the players get more of the publicity, but what about the players like AJ Van Voorhis that don’t get as much publicity. How do they contribute to the team?

GO: “I think the thing that not a lot of fans realize is that everyone puts in the same level of work as everybody else. There’s not a senior that doesn’t work every bit, if not harder than I do to be good at football. I just happen to be one of the ones that gets a little more publicity. I think the level of commitment that everyone has across the board. Everyone has invested the same amount. That’s what makes the group so special.”

BI: Besides the championships, how has this senior class made an impact on the Bison program?

GO: “I think the biggest thing that we have done in terms of setting the program in the right direction is the success that we’ve had and what we’ve been able to teach the younger guys I’m hoping will have a profound impact for many years to come and the legacy continues. I really hope that the guys that are young now, when they are old, will teach the young guys to do it and it keeps going for a long time.”

 

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#24        Bryan Shepherd

Position: Defensive Back

Hometown: Olathe, Kan.

High School: North High School

Bio: Since recovering from a serious injury last season, Shepherd has become a main component in the Bison’s defensive backfield. The University of Nebraska-Omaha transfer made his presence known with his big hits on special teams and defense.

The Interview:

BI: Before coming to NDSU, what was your perception of the school?

BS: “This is a school that has great football tradition, great pride and good fan support. It’s also a close-knit group. Really, I always heard about the fan support, but then I got to run out that tunnel and hear everything and that was pretty big. Especially coming from Nebraska-Omaha where it wasn’t like that at all. So it was really nice.”

BI: Who welcomed you to the program and helped you with your transition?

BS: “Yeah, I’d like to say probably all of the defensive backs. Everyone helped me out in school, on and off the field and it was nice.”

BI: What would you say to the senior class before your last game?

“I tell them before every game that ‘I love them and I’m proud to go into battle with this group of guys. I’m glad I picked this school; it was my best decision ever. Let’s leave it all out on the field.’”

BI: Without mentioning the championships, what is one of the most memorable things you will take when you leave the program?

BS: “I don’t have one specific thing, but just working hard. Running hard through those Coach Kramer workouts this summer when everyone is dog tired and everyone is going at. He picks everyone up really and rallies us through the workouts. That’s probably it.

BI: How has the coaching here helped you as a player?

BS: “Coach Klieman made a huge difference. I love that guy. He really brought out the love of the game for me even more. I always loved the game, but he really got everything out of me. He made me understand the game a lot more and made me a much better football player. He’s the best coach, I’d like to say.”

BI: Was there something you think you did to make the guys accept you into the program?

BS: “I think they just accepted that I came in worked my butt off in whatever I was doing. Whether it was special teams when I first got here I was just willing to do anything and everything. I played multiple positions when I first got here.”

BI: What’s your relationship like with the rest of the defensive backs now?

BS: “Yeah, we’re all close. We all hang out on and off the field here. I think we’ll stay in touch. Hopefully stay in touch here with everyone and other defensive backs that graduated from here.”

BI: Explain the culture here at NDSU?

BS: “It’s a special place, man, it really is. You don’t get this everywhere you go. I tell everyone I went on recruiting trips to places but here, everyone cares about each other and wants you to get better. If you’re a starter you want to help that back up become better. Everyone wants everyone to get better for one common goal is to win it all.”

 

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#44        Antonio Rodgers

Position: Linebacker

Hometown: North Miami Beach, Fla.

High School: North Miami Beach High School

Bio: Finding home in special teams, the West Hills College (Calif.) transfer played all 15 games on special teams and at linebacker after working hard to pick up the stingy Bison defensive system upon his arrival.

The Interview:

BI: What has it been like working with the Senior Class?

AR: “It’s been great. We’ve been together for a while so it’s been a great experience.”

BI: If there was one thing you could say to the senior class after the final game this year, what would it be?

AR: “We have a bond that is unbreakable, I think from being together so long. You can always count on these guys. After we finish it’s going to be a lifelong friendship.”

BI: If you had one memory that you could take with you for the rest of your life about the senior class what would it be?

AR: “Probably the first national championship we won down in Frisco.”

BI: Besides those championships, what do you think the senior class has contributed to the Bison program?

AR: “We showed everybody how to work hard. We can always count on each other. We showed everybody how our brotherhood works, how to count and rely on one another.”

BI: How have you matured as a person and player from freshman year to senior year?

AR: “I can say I’ve matured in decision making. When I was younger I made a lot of crazy decisions but the older I got, my decision making became much better.”

BI: What’s your relationship with Grant Olson? What’s that like?

AR: “GM. He’s like big brother Olson. He’s going to tell you when you’re right; he’s going to tell you when he’s wrong. I look at him as my big brother.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

AR: “Working hard for the guy next to you. Knowing that the guy next to you is depending on you to do your job every play. And while you’re getting your job done, you’re showing your brothers that you care. Be accountable.”

 

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#77        Billy Turner

Position: Offensive Tackle

Hometown: Shoreview, Minn.

High School: Mounds View High School

Bio: Since his freshman year, Turner has been starting on the offensive line. His athleticism continues to impress spectators each time he steps on the field. Need to pick up a first down? Run through Turner because you can count on him to create running lanes for the running back. Sometimes blocking two guys at once, Turner is a big reason Jensen has enough time to throw accurately and patiently from inside the pocket, and Ojuri and Crockett can run for over 1,000 yards.

Accolades:

  • *2012 Sports Network FCS All-America First Team
  • *2012 Associated Press FCS All-America Team
  • 2012 Walter Camp FCS All-America Team
  • 2012, 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team

The Interview:

BI: First off, what does Bison pride mean to you?

BT: “Bison Pride to me is probably just having a clear understanding of the big picture the whole team is working towards. Everybody helping everyone to succeed at the goal we have as a team. There’s a saying, ‘Once a Bison, always a Bison.’ Once you are in this family, you are always in this family and anyone will do anything for each other.”

BI: Can you think of any specific moments from your career where Bison Pride came to the forefront?

BT: “When I think of it, I think of some of the bigger games we’ve been in. We played at Kansas State and the national championship games and just some of the older players that came back to support us as a team during those games. That’s essentially Bison Pride to me. Taking time out of their work and supporting us down in Texas or at all of our home games and speaking with us and letting us know how proud they are of all of our accomplishments that we’ve had the last couple years.”

BI: What about the coaching staff? How have they affected you after working with you since you were a freshman?

BT: “Since I’ve been here, I’d say I’ve definitely grown as a young man and being in the meeting room with Coach Fuchs and working with some of the other coaches, just some of the things that they don’t even try to instill on you as a person but it rubs off on you. Their work ethic and them showing up here at 5 or 6 a.m. every morning to work regardless of what the day is, whether it’s a holiday or not. Taking time out of their family lives to come up here and do their job because they love it and to help us get better and grow as people. It’s something that I’ve really learned to appreciate.”

BI: What would be the one thing that you would want to say to the senior class?

BT: “Probably that the last four and a half years, the fun that I’ve had and the relationships that I’ve grown to have with a lot of guys on the team is something that has definitely shaped me as a man and is something that I’ll never forget. I’ve made some of my best friends for life on the team and I guess I got nothing but love for everyone.”

BI: How has the relationship that you’ve developed help you achieve the success that you’ve had?

BT: “Kind of like I said before, the relationship that we have and as close as we are with one another, I don’t think anyone on the team has a problem with anyone. The relationships that we do have and putting that on the field and going out and playing, the overall chemistry that its helped us develop as being friends and being teammates, the chemistry that we’ve been able to transform from off the field to on the field is probably what’s been the biggest success with us so far.”

BI: Do you have one specific memory from your years here with the seniors?

BT: “I wouldn’t be able to pick one memory because I’ve got so many of them. As far as I’m concerned, I create memories with these guys. We’re always joking around with one another. I don’t think there’s one big thing that I’m always going to remember. I’m going to remember everything.”

BI: Talk about the importance of guys like Andrew Nack that don’t get as much publicity. How do they contribute to the team?

BT: “They contribute just as much as everyone else does on the team. A lot of the guys that don’t get as much playing team, that doesn’t mean that, as far as relationships are concerned, nobody has hard feelings because that dude’s playing. They put in just as much time in and off the field as the starters put in. Nack is in there watching film with me and all the other guys just as much as we watch film with Brock or anyone else. The amount of time they put in is the exact same. There’s no hard feelings that goes along with anything. Their hard work and determination is going to pay off for them whether it’s on the football team or throughout life. You never know when the next guy in line is going to be up and have to play.”

 

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#69        Leevon Perry

Position: Defensive Tackle

Hometown: Cottage Grove, Minn.

High School: St. Agnes High School

Bio: Perry has been an unstoppable force at nose tackle for the Bison since the first time he stepped on the field. Perry overcame a significant knee injury last season and isn’t taking a play for granted this season, playing arguably the best football of his career.

Accolades:

  • *2013 Honorable Mention All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team
  • *2012 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second Team
  • *2010 Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team

The Interview:

BI: Pretty generic question, but what does Bison Pride mean to you?

LP: “It’s family. You work towards everything together and through those hard times and summer and winter where you have conditioning and are dying. You lean on the other teammates to get you through it.”

BI: After your final game, when you’re all done with your season and all the guys are going their own way, what would you say to the senior class?

LP: “It’s been fun. We’ve definitely made memories together. It’s not just on the field; it’s off the field. We have a lot of good chemistry. I’m really proud that I’ve met these guys. I wouldn’t want my college experience going any other way.”

BI: What sort of support did you receive from your teammates after your knee injury?

LP: “A lot of support. I was the hardest on myself. I was a little scared that I wouldn’t come back and play like I normally played. It was 50/50 with the surgery. Sometimes it works with people. Sometimes it doesn’t. Everyone had a real good part in texting me and calling me and letting me know that it was going to be all right. (Matt) Veldman actually called me when he was going through his injury. He was talking me through everything. Billy’s (Turner) dad called me to pep me up. I got a lot of support from everyone and I really appreciate it.”

BI: How do you think your relationship has helped contribute to your success?

LP: “I think it puts the pressure on each and every one of us because we don’t want to let anybody down and takes it to we’re playing for the coaches and it’s our team and we’re playing for each other. You don’t want to let the guy next to you down.”

BI: Do you have a favorite memory from your years with the senior class?

LP: “I think it was last year’s National Championship game. Me sitting out and having to watch everyone and pretty much taking the sideline seat and watching all my guys pretty much go to work. I was nervous.  It was great seeing Brian Schaetz step up the way he did and Danny Luecke step up the way he did. I feel like it brought me closer to the team because it took a lot of stress off my mind and it got me to trust my teammates and know that everyone is here to work. Nobody’s irreplaceable. People get picked up. That’s good to know so you know your teammates are going to come in and handle the job.”

BI: What’s the relationship like off the field?

LP: “Great. We had our last D-Line dinner the other night. That was a lot of fun. It took me four years to actually go there because there was always something going on. I finally showed up. It was our last one. It really hit me. It’s like a big family. You have all the young guys there. You have all the old guys there. D-Tackles and D-Ends, we all came there at the same time, so it’s fun to watch from freshmen to now we’re all the old guys and trying to pass along the message we got. We got some really good players.”

BI: On a separate note, where do you go for a D Line dinner?

LP: “Danny Luecke’s house. Danny’s dad is a great cook. He can grill lots of steak and ribs.”

BI: I imagine you boys can eat.

LP: “Oh yeah. It’s great.”

BI: Besides the championships, how do you think this senior class has contributed to NDSU?

LP: “I think we’ve instilled that message that we don’t tolerate people coming in and thinking that it will be handed to them. We came in during the 3-8 season so it was, ‘if you didn’t handle your business, you’re off the team or you’re not getting any playing time.’ We came in, and anybody else coming in, knowing that winter workouts really mean winter workouts. We work. We work until you want to pass out. You keep working until you actually pass out so that you can take a breath after that. I just think that we tell these young guys that they need to work and that’s how it always should be and how it’s always going to be.”

BI: Talk about how you’ve matured from your freshman to senior year.

LP: “It got to the fact that school became more important. It gets to senior year and graduation is just around the corner and you realize that football continues but life after football is more important. The fact that I spent my college years with these guys has helped a lot. Kind of like me and Drevlow probably never would have talked in the normal world because he’s a big hunter and I’m from the middle of the city. Getting to know him has broadened my horizon. I think it’s a great impact on most of these guys here and I’m really proud that I got to spend the time with them.”

BI: What’s next for you?

LP: “We’ll see what happens. I’m going to ride this football thing out for as long as it is. I have a couple of back up plans. I figure if worse comes to worse comes to worse I’m big and I like doing security. We’ll see what happens.”

 

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#4          Ryan Smith

Position: Wide Receiver

Hometown: Wahpeton

High School: Wahpeton High School

Bio: One of the most explosive players on the Bison offense wasn’t always split-out wide-right. Smith entered the program as a game-changing running back from Wahpeton. After his freshman year, Smith found a home with the wide receivers while becoming a nightmare to contain on special teams.

Accolades:

  • *2011, 2012, 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second Team

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

RS: “Bison Pride means to me everyone coming together as a family and just looking at your teammate and knowing that you’re not going to give up on them. Every Saturday we go out there and it’s a great feeling that the person lined up next to you isn’t going to slouch. They’re going to give everything they got and they’re doing it for you and your teammates.”

BI: What’s it been like working with this senior class?

RS: “It’s been an amazing senior class. Everyone’s so close together. The team chemistry in our locker room is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even in high school I had some close buddies, but we’re all really, really close in the locker room.”

BI: Off the field, does everyone hang out with everyone or is it rather segmented by position?

RS: “Everybody doesn’t hang out with everybody. Obviously you have those times where everyone’s going to hang out. It’s weird. We play games together. We’re in the locker room all the time with each other. It’s just the fact that we’re with each other all the time. We’re in meetings all the time or practice all the time. We probably see each other eight hours out of the 24 hours in a day.”

BI: After your final game with these guys, what would you like to say to them?

RS: “I would probably just like to say, ‘thank you for being my teammate and sticking through the thick and thin. I have some lifelong friends I’ve made and it’s been a great ride. It’s been an honor being a Bison with you.’”

BI: Is there one specific memory with the senior guys that you remember? We’re going to cut you off from saying the championships because that’s what everyone is saying.

RS: “Probably when we beat Georgia Southern the last two times. That was a pretty surreal feeling. Not only to get to play for a National Championship but to actually get into the National Championship. Just jumping up into the stands with the other guys. Everyone’s going nuts and ballistic. Celebrating with them. It was awesome.”

BI: How has the coaching helped you evolve from your freshman to senior year?

RS: “After my freshman year, I switched to wide receiver and I got a new position coach, Kenni Burns. He’s been an amazing coach. He’s helped me progress into the player and man I am today. He’s really showed discipline and everything little thing I didn’t know in life. I’m going to miss him a lot when I graduate.”

BI: As a team, how do the coaches help the players bond overall?

RS: “Coach Bohl is really good at getting us together and giving us some fun activities. He has a big deal to do with the chemistry because of how positive he is and encouraging he is. He’s a great coach. It’s an honor to play for him.”

BI: Any examples of thing Coach Bohl does for bonding?

RS: “During fall camp we got things for lunch and do some stuff, nothing too special. On Sundays we come into the team room and watch football.”

BI: Besides the championships, how has the football team helped contribute to NDSU?

RS: “Getting that mentality of what Bison Football is to the young guys. Our young guys still have a lot to learn but it’s still a start when you have as many seniors as we have to lead by example and show what it takes to win a National Championship and do what it takes to practice and know what Bison Football actually is.”

BI: What has it meant to you growing up in North Dakota and now playing for NDSU?

RS: “I was a Bison fan my whole life. I was even a ball boy back in the day. It means the world to me when Coach Bohl gave me that call and offered for me to play here. It was a surreal moment. Just being close to home and having my family close to me has been awesome. They come to every game to watch it. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been the best decision in my life to come to NDSU and play football.”

 

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#74        Andrew Nack

Position: Offensive Lineman

Hometown: Osakis, Minn.

High School: Osakis High School

Bio: As one of the most hard-working and blue collar players on the team, Nack has been what the football program is all about. Not only is Nack a hard worker on the practice field, Nack gets it done in the classroom, too.

Accolades:

  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

Andrew Nack: “Bison Pride to me is everyone doing their role on the team. Only 11 guys can be out on the field at a time, but you still have guys that have to practice and you know, injuries can happen at any time so you have to be ready for anything. So that’s the biggest thing, just doing your job, doing your role on the team.”

BI: What have your relationships been like with the rest of the senior class? How has it evolved during your college career?

AN: “It’s kind of been something you don’t get anywhere else. Having such a big class and having so many guys that have stayed the course for the five years. There are stories you talk about from freshman year on scout team and just bringing up old memories it’s kind of cool that you can share that with so many guys.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

AN: “Thanking them for the opportunity to go out and play the sport we all love with one another; that camaraderie. And thanking them for accepting a guy from small town Minnesota and just how close we’ve all gotten.”

BI: What were you expecting when you first came here to walk-on?

AN: “I really didn’t know what to expect. I kind of got a little bit of a culture shock. One of the first days we had to weigh in and I stepped on the scale and the next guy behind me was Lee Vandal, the starting full back and he weighed the same as I did and I was supposed to be playing offensive line, and he’s full back. So, it was kind of a bit of culture shock. But yeah, didn’t really know what to expect. College football is nothing like high school football, different level, and different speed.”

BI: You’re a part of the Bison program as much as anyone on the team, but you haven’t played a whole lot. What has kept you around the program?

AN: “Probably the biggest thing is, doing the work with the other people on the team. You’re sitting there, you’re doing winter workouts, summer workouts or a difficult fall camp practice and you’re looking at the guy next to you and they’re putting in the same amount of work you’re doing, and they’re fighting through it just as much as you are and so you want to stick with it and do the best you can for the guys next to ya.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

AN: “All the times we’ve spent with each other off the field and they always say ‘The friends you make in college are the friends you’re going to keep for the rest of your life’ I’m kind of just hoping that mantra is true.”

 

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#63        Anthony LaVoy

Position: Defensive Line

Hometown: Mahnomen, Minn.

High School: Mahnomen High School

Bio: Unlike most of the senior class, LaVoy wasn’t handed a scholarship right out of high school. The versatile offensive and defensive lineman worked his way slowly into the program, spending a season at Bemidji State. LaVoy played in key situations during the 2012 playoff-run.

The Interview:

BI: Can you explain your journey to NDSU after high school?

Anthony LaVoy: “I wasn’t like most guys that come here. I went to Bmidji State, which is a Division II program, for a semester. I didn’t really like my surroundings there; I wasn’t as interested as I thought I was when I first chose to go there. So I got in touch with Coach Vigen because he recruited me out of high school and began my path here in the middle of my freshman year of college.”

BI: I’m from Bemidji too, so what’s it been like going from BSU to NDSU?

AL: “You know, Bemidji, nothing can be said badly about their program, they love to win and play football just like everybody else. They have a strong program and they care about football just as much as the next program does. It’s definitely a larger scale when you come here. The guys you play with are a higher caliber. Don’t get me wrong, Bemidji did have a lot of guys that were very good athletes but pretty much every position at NDSU has a couple of guys that are outstanding athletes. It’s definitely on a larger scale and a little more up tempo than expected.”

BI: What’s it been like bouncing between the O line and the D line?

AL: “I played D line my first two and a half years here. I love defensive line. They came to me and said ‘Hey we have a couple guys graduating. We’d like for you to try out some offensive line if possible.’ I got a chance to play right away. I just wanted to do what was going to help the team out the most. I understand that at defense we were very deep and we had a lot of guys that were capable of doing great things over there. They needed help on offense side and I took to it and I didn’t even really think twice about it. As long as I was going to help the team and everybody was going to be happy with the decision and the team was going to move forward, I was fine with it. Going back to defense after a couple injuries. I had injured myself and had to sit out most of the season last year. Then Leevon gets hurt and Justin. He’s not playing anymore because his knees are so bad, and Josh stepped into my spot last year. He’s doing a great job as a freshman so it was kind of a whirl wind.”

BI: What has it been like playing with this senior class?

AL: “From talking to other guys who play for other programs, you’re never going to find a group of guys that are as close, and have each other’s backs the way that this program and these guys in my class do. Across the board, not even as a senior class, the way our team gets a long is ridiculous. There’s no group of guys that doesn’t get along with that group of guys. Anywhere outside of football, you’re going to see a group of guys and everybody’s going to be friends and get together. It’s not going to affect anything. Playing with these guys has been an absolute privilege and an honor. I don’t think I could’ve found a better group of guys anywhere in the US.”

BI: After your guys’ final game together what would be the final thing you would say to this group?

AL: “Thank you. The memories and the great dedication that they’ve all had. It’s hard sometimes when you’re really dedicated and they guy next to you isn’t pushing as hard. That’s not the case here at all. If you’re dedicated and pushing hard, they guy next to you is pushing even harder. We just make one another better. It’s going to be a tough goodbye that’s for sure.”

BI: Do you have any favorite memories from your years here? Everybody’s saying the championships…

AL: “Those are great memories. Those are the two big ones that stick out in my mind. I would have to agree with the other guys. That first national championship, just the being in Texas together a couple days before the game, the camaraderie  we all had, and how much fun we had with it. But taking it as a business trip, and taking care of business. Holding that trophy up was such a great honor.”

BI: Besides the championships, how else do you think the senior class has contributed to the Bison Program?

AL: “You know, you can’t just say it was our class. The classes before us, they had a couple good years. They were 10-1. They had a couple low years. The classes before us really turned it around. They put it in our hands. We could have gone two ways with it, good or bad and the team just kind of turned it around. We all just kind of woke up and realized that in order to do a great thing you have to get rid of the bad and that’s what we did.”

BI: How have you matured as a person and a player from freshman year to senior year?

AL: “Greatly. I remember freshman year, you want to be a normal freshman and you see all the kids around you having fun. You’re not a normal freshman. It takes you awhile to realize that. You have to realize that you’re here to play football and that’s the only thing you’re here for. You don’t need to worry about going out and being a normal student right now. That time will come in life, when you get to go out, but it just really made me focus on studying and going to class and trying to do better. If you don’t do well in that aspect you don’t just get a letter in the mail saying you did badly, you don’t get to play football. It’s a difference. Different feeling.”

BI: Obviously as a lineman you know that some players receive more publicity. What do you think people like Andrew Nack and people who have been on the team since the beginning and they don’t get as much playing time or publicity, What do they contribute to the team?

AL: “They’re just as big of a contributor as the next guy. I played Nack in high school and he was a lot like me. I’m just like those guys. I’m not a huge contributor. They are important their name might not be in the spotlight, they might not be in any papers but if you come to any practice, they’re taking just as many reps as the next guy. If anything were to happen, God forbid it did, they would be ready to go just like the next guy. Anybody on our team is ready to fill the shoes of a star and get the job done, play that high level of football, and hopefully everything goes as planned.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

AL: “It’s a family thing for me personally. I have three uncles that came here and played. As a young kid it was always a dream to come here. Out of high school I went to Bemidji and it just didn’t work out that I could come here. In the back of my mind I had always thought, ‘Oh I wonder if I could play there, or if I had a chance to what would I do,’ Bison Pride to me is a genuine care for people around you. Putting people in front of you before you think of yourself. As our coaches do. As you meet alumni and past players, they throw the horns up when they see you, and they know who you are. You can just tell that their care for the Bison is absurd. The amount of care and love that they have. They don’t even know your name, but they know that you play for the Bison and they have your back no matter what. That’s what it is to me.”

 

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#93        Cole Jirik

Position: Defensive End

Hometown: Northfield, Minn.

High School: Northfield High School

Bio: Jirik continues to be one of the most valuable players on the Bison’s defense.  He renews his reliability to be a huge playmaker for the Bison, proving his strength, quickness and technique on every down.

Accolades:

  • *College Football Performace.com Defensive End Watch List

The Interview:

BI: What has it been like to play with this senior class?

CJ: “It’s been pretty special. We all kind of came in here our first year and red shirted, and we were 3-8 and we all weren’t really sure if this was what we wanted to do, if this was the right place for us, we wanted to win. And to grow with these guys over the guys, have so many of us stay together, we were the first freshman class not to lose a kid during fall camp in a long time and it kind of showed how close of a group we were. We held together through the five years and it’s been special to be with these kids I guess.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

CJ: “Probably just thanks, just for every day. When you’re down one day, there’s someone that’s picking you up and when they’re down one day, you’re picking them up and just for helping out and putting all the effort in.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

CJ: “One memory? Probably just the locker room. Just hangin’ out together. Nothing to do with football, just hangin’ out.”

BI: Without mentioning the championships, how do you think this senior class has made an impact on the Bison program?

CJ: “I think hard work. Kind of showing the younger kids how it’s done. We were showed by the older kids my freshman year what it’s like, and we’ve kind of instilled that in the years below us and I think that’ll keep passing along as we get out of here.”

BI: Explain the maturation process players go through from their freshman to senior years as far as a teammate and a human being.

CJ: “That freshman year you’re just lost. You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know the defense. Every year you learn something new, you just mature. You grow. You learn a new way to conduct yourself and how you perform in practice everyday day and it’s just a long learning process. You go from being mentored to being the mentor and it’s just kind of a cool process.”

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

CJ: “Everything you’ve got for the guy next to you. You leave it all on the field because you know the guy next to you is doing the same thing. You don’t want to let your teammates or family down.”

 

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#50        Michael Murphy

Position: Long Snapper

Hometown: Hollister, Calif.

High School: San Benito High School

Bio: The experienced long snapper has one of the most overlooked jobs on the team. Murphy can be counted on to be consistent with his job to set-up successful punts, field goals and extra points. He has played in every game since his arrival and continues to make plays down field.

The Interview:

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

Michael Murphy: “Bison pride is something that’s very important to me. I’m from California, so coming from somewhere, I didn’t know anyone here and the guys took me in really fast and it’s very important to other people that we’re close together as a team. So that’s really important to me and basically that’s what I think Bison pride is the family, the unity.”

BI: What position did you originally come here to play?

MM: “Long snapper.”

BI: What kept you around after they made you the full-time long snapper?

MM: “Just knowing that I am doing something very important for the team, you know making that huge impact on the special teams kind of kept me here. The college education, my parents always told me it’s a college education, you know they’re helping to pay your school so just stick it out and make it work. I was very homesick at first, you know, not having family here and stuff like that.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after

the last game what would it be?

MM: “Um, love everyone here. It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been a fun ride, and that’s pretty much it. And you know, thank you for taking me in and all that stuff.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

MM: “Just the amount of guys that stuck around. You know, with the past classes a lot of guys have left and my class, we all stuck around, and you know not many guys have left, not many guys have come and gone, we’ve all stayed together. Like I said, we’re a family and no one wants to leave their family and we take that very serious, we’re close as a group.”

BI: What have your four years been like in Fargo? How do you think it has affected your life moving on?

MM: “My four years in Fargo have been great. The friends I have made have been fun, I was actually dreading the fact of coming out here and leaving California, ‘the golden state’ and I didn’t know what to expect here. When I got here I realized the people are a million times nicer here in Fargo than they are out in California. People are very warm welcoming and they want you to be here. Hearing people say ‘Oh you’re the long snapper for the Bison’ when I don’t even know them, they recognize me, and that’s really cool that they’re very supportive because not many teams are lucky to have a fan base like we do. It’s a lot of fun to have people in the stands care just as much about the game as we do.”

 

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#85        Kevin Vaadeland

Position: Tight End

Hometown: Park Rapids, Minn.

High School: Park Rapids Area High School

Bio: Vaadeland has become one of Jensen’s favorite targets in the end-zone this season. The tight-end hauled in a huge touchdown in one of the biggest statement wins in NDSU history against Kansas State in the third quarter.

Accolades:

  • *2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second Team

The Interview:

BI: What’s your relationship like with this senior class?

Kevin Vaadeland: “We’re a really close group. Kind of like brothers. We’re one big family and we’d do anything for each other. I haven’t seen a closer group of people.”

BI: Talk about your relationship with Taylor Nelson. How do you push each other?

KV: “We came in at the same time and we also roomed together so we’re pretty much best friends. We hangout all the time. We try to push each other and get better every day.”

BI: After your final game this year with all these guys, what would you like to say to them?

KV: “I like being around all of them.”

BI: If you only had one memory of your years with these guys, what would it be? I’m guessing it would be the championships but if you have any other ones that’d be great because that’s what everyone is saying.

KV: “The championships are hard to beat. The Kansas State win and Minnesota too. I started in the Kansas State game so that’s probably why it’s the biggest one for me.”

BI: Besides the championships, how else has your class contributed to Bison Football?

KV: “You have to prepare. There’s never an off time. You’re always lifting, always going and always trying to get better.”

BI: How have you matured as a player from your freshman to senior year?

KV: “My freshman year I was young, kind of dumb and didn’t know what to expect. Now I’ve been through a lot. My first year we were 3-8 and this shows that the harder you work; good things can come along with it. That goes along with life too.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

KV: Family. Being together and doing everything for each other, working hard and trying to get those wins.”

 

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#86        Taylor Nelson

Position: Tight End

Hometown: Minnetonka, Minn.

High School: Minnetonka High School

Bio: Working his way into the tight end rotation, Nelson has been playing in games since his sophomore year. He continues to improve from week to week, proving his reliability.

The Interview:

BI: What has it been like to play with this senior class?

Taylor Nelson: “It’s been an awesome experience, probably the best memories and moments I’ve been able to have in my life. We all came in together and kind of struggled with our 3-8 season. We have set a tone and changed the culture around here and it’s helped us turn the ship around.”

BI: Talk about the relationship you have with Kevin Vaadeland. How do you two push each other?

TN: “Kevin and I came in with the same position, tight end, same year, 2009. We became best friends; we spent all our time together. He got hurt with his ACL in 2009 right away so I had to help him when he got back on the field and it was a learning process for him, you know, to get back into the groove of things. And he’s been pushing me as he starts now; he pushes me to get on the field just as much as him. Off the field we’re best friends, we hang out all the time.”

BI: If there’s one thing you would want to say to the rest of this senior class after the last game what would it be?

TN: “I love you guys. I’d do anything for you guys because we came in together and it’s been a magical journey.”

BI: If you only had one memory to take with you for the rest of your life about this senior class, what would it be?

TN: “It’d be winning two national championships, obviously. It’d been beating the Gophers; it’d be beating all the FCS schools. The record tells it all.”

BI: Without mentioning the championships, how do you think this senior class has made an impact on the Bison program?

TN: “I think we have brought the team together as far as, when we got in here in 2009 it was kind of separated a little bit, and we’ve definitely made the group closer. It’s turned into a family atmosphere, everyone has each other’s’ back and it shows on the field I believe.”

BI: Explain the maturation process players go through from their freshman to senior years as far as a teammate and a human being.

TN: “As a player, I have matured as far as understanding, getting my nose into the playbook even more, watching more film, and learning how to go about business and how to prepare for games and it’s helped out on the field. As a person, sometimes you take a little beating by the coaches, as far as verbally, but you get better and improve and it makes you a better person. They’re setting you up for the real world. I feel like this is one of the harder things I’ve done in life up to this point.”

BI: What does Bison pride mean to you?

TN: “Bison pride to me is a family atmosphere; it’s a family, a tradition that bleeds green and gold. Everyone has one goal and that’s the national championship and conference championship as well. For everyone else that’s coming in as Bison and stuff like that, I would say look up to the older guys. You want to be a part of the family; you’ll understand when you see it, when you come here. You will understand.”

 

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#95        Jeremy Gordon

Position: Defensive End

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.

High School: Riverside University High School

Bio: Gordon is defining Bison Pride with every single snap he takes this season. Early in the season, Gordon tore his ACL, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from finishing his career as a Bison on the field.

The Interview:

BI: What’s it been like to play with all these guys?

Jeremy Gordon: “It’s been a pleasure. Getting accepted into this program was a big thing for me. Just being able to play with these guys has been a tremendous thing. It’s something I will take with me forever. I was a junior college player, so coming into a system that was already developed. A big thank you is all I can really say.”

BI: So how’s the knee, did sitting out the rest of the season ever cross your mind?

JG: “Oh yeah, it crossed my mind. I had a lot of people tell me ‘man you won’t be able to play with a torn ACL, you won’t be able to do this, or do that,’ you know, the typical things people say. Even when it crossed my mind, people would say, ‘the worst thing that could happen is you could lose a leg, or completely mess your knee up.’ I thought about this myself. Multiple times I said the one thing people would do is run away, but this is something I love doing. I enjoy playing. I said ‘I can’t run away from this. Not now. It’s not my time.’ I dug deep down inside so I could continue to play. With that I got Bobby (made me run on it)-this is an utmost guess you should probably listen to it) to see how I hold up without my knee brace. And it held up pretty well. After that I said ‘I’m going to do it’. And then Coach Bohl talked to me. He even said, a lot of people in this situation would have left and just gave up. But me, it’s a different story. I said ‘no, I can’t go right now.’ I talked with a lot of my coaches and they were surprised. Some of them told me ‘you’ve got to look at the future, not just now’ so, you want be able to walk and play with your kids, all sorts of great things. That was their main focus.”

BI: Can you talk about the coaches. What is your relationship with them like?

JG: “It’s like a family. Anything you need you go to the coaches, talk to them. Also, they are a coach, a friend, father figure. They lead you in the right direction. What they talk about is genuine honesty. Anything that happens straight-up tell the truth. Also, the relationship we have is a lot of things. It’s the bond we all have. Once you come into the program and you’ve been through what everyone else has been through, you have that bond.”

BI: Have you said anything to Grant about the knee injury? Have you guys talked about it?

JG: “I haven’t really talked to Grant about the knee. From my point of view, Grant, he’s a great player. He worked hard to do everything he can do. I’m pretty sure he has no regrets. Whatever decision he goes with—no regrets. He laid it all on the line. He did his job; he laid it all on the line. Two different guys. Two different people. It’s a lot of different things. I haven’t really had a chance to talk to him.”

BI: Besides all the championships, how has the senior class contributed to the Bison Program?

JG: “They contribute the time, the effort, and the commitment, just to be a great team. We put in a tremendous amount of time of effort with everyone. So we’re all on the same page, and to keep them together especially in the summer, we work really hard we make sure everybody’s on the same page. Being such a veteran team, we know the ins and outs of what we have to do and what we need to get done. The first goal is the conference then moving on the next thing which is the championship. We make sure everybody is on the same page and continues being focused and giving it your all.”

BI: Can you explain how you have matured as a player from your freshman to senior year?

JG: “My first year here I was kind of on the side like, I don’t know if I’m going to really like that? We have our fun, our giggles, but there are some things that I was like ‘I don’t know?’, but I’ve matured a lot. I developed a great relationship with every teammate and coach on the team. So now I can look at it, the reason why certain things happen is because of the team bonding and the whole experience. Looking at it now is a whole different perspective to try to get the freshmen now to do the same thing. It’s all love.”

BI: What is the relation like between freshmen and sophomore players?

JG: “We hang out. Just to get in the atmosphere and the social life. You don’t always have to do what everybody else is doing to have fun. They hang out and just chill with us. We have fun doing positive things. And staying true to the team—staying smart on and off the field. We talk to them and just do all sorts of cool things. Bowling and going to the movies.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

JG: “A group of men coming together as a family to compete and challenge in every perspective and to get a job done, as well as have fun.”

 

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#71        Tyler Gimmestad

Position: Offensive Guard

Hometown: Marshall, Minn.

High School: Marshall High School

Bio: Gimmestad wasn’t always moving defenders as a part of the “Rams,” he used to be one of the defenders being moved by the “Rams” during practice. Gimmestad switched to the offensive line during the 2011 season and has been opening holes for three 1,000-yard rushers ever since.

Accolades:

  • *2013 Honorable Mention All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team
  • *Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll

The Interview:

BI: So Tyler, tell me about the Rams, bring me inside your guys’ mentality

TG: “We’re just a goofy bunch of guys that have a certain toughness about us. We want to take a lot of pride in what we do. That’s what makes us the Rams. It’s been around for so long that we take pride in what we do.”

BI: When was the first time you got some insider knowledge of what that Ram mentality was?

TG: “Right away when I started playing offensive line, Coach Fuchs was a Ram when he played here. You get the knowledge from him. He tells you what it was like when he played. He still has the pride that he had when he was in it as when I was playing.”

BI: You’re an offensive lineman so you know this but, some players are going to get more recognition than others like some of the Brocks or Grants but what about the people like Andrew Nack and the other guys that still put in as much work as the other Bison but may not get as much playing time.

TG: “They’re definitely part of the team. They’ve got to get this stuff down too. You never know when you’ll get your number called, if someone gets hurt. They always have to be prepared like they’re going to be starting on Saturday, even though they might not.”

BI: What has it been like to play with these senior guys?

TG: “It’s been great. We moved up here, and we were all in Severinsen Hall. That was definitely what brought us closer as a group of seniors.”

BI: As freshmen did you guys think you would come as far as you have managed to come?

TG: “Probably not, but, you’ve got to have high expectations. So I don’t think we thought that we couldn’t do it. Now looking back, we had a bunch of great guys with great chemistry so I’m not too surprised right now.”

BI: So if there’s one thing you would like to say to all these guys after the final game this year, what would that be?

TG: “That I love them and I’d do anything for them. It’s been a great five years here. You know, I couldn’t have been happier than doing it with the guys I’ve been doing it with.”

BI: Can you talk about how you’ve matured as a person and a player from a freshman to a senior?

TG: “You take on a bunch of responsibility that you’ve never had before. You get into routines and you’re accountable for yourself. Your actions that you do. It’s definitely made me a lot more mature.”

BI: You guys spend how many hours a day together?

TG: “I have no idea.”

BI: Are there ever any disagreements? Does everyone get along well?

TG: “Everyone gets a long pretty well. We’ve always been close. That’s why I think we’ve got so far, because of the chemistry that we’ve built over the years.”

BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?

TG: “It’s a brotherhood it’s family. Being willing to do anything for the people around you. It’s being willing to do anything for the bison. The Bison now, and the past, even the future. They’re coming into family that is so big, and very accepting. That’s what Bison pride is to me.”

 

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#5          Derrick Lang

Position: Running Back

Hometown: Wausau, Wis.

High School: West High School

Bio: The former walk-on has contributed to the program in more ways than one. Backing up Sam Ojuri and John Crockett, Lang has provided relief for the starting running backs with clutch third-down plays.

The interview:

BI: What kind of experience has it been playing at NDSU?

Derrick Lang: “It’s been a great experience. I have a lot of close friends in this class and we have all been through a lot together. Our first year we went 3-8 so that was a learning experience and we all stuck it out. We have a lot of variety. I was a walk-on, and there are three or four more walk-ons in this class and we have stuck it out and guys that have joined us like Bryan Shepherd.”

BI: Talk about being a walk-on. How have you helped the team?

DL: “I just try to find any way I can contribute. I play a lot of third down so I just take my role and I try to be perfect with it because I don’t get a lot of reps. Every opportunity I get I try to make a play and make the most of it I guess.”

BI: You sure made the most of your opportunity against Kansas State.

DL: “It was awesome and definitely an experience I will never forget. I got in there and it was a great play call by Coach Vigen and it was something I’ll never forget.”

BI: What will you tell your fellow senior at the end of the year?

DL: “I would just say it’s been great and a great experience winning two national championships. The thing will cherish most is relationships I have with the guys. I know I have made friends on this team that I will have for a life time and I value their friendship and their commitment to this team and winning back to back national championships.”

BI: When do you think that deep bond with your teammates is built?

DL: “I would say the summer conditioning when we’re busting our butts and its 100 degrees out there. Especially Friday’s in July. Fridays in July we’re out there on Dakotah Field until 8 at night. That definitely sticks out with the commitment that takes from all of us.”

BI: Including the championship trophies, what else will this class be leaving for future Bison teams?

DL: “I think just the winning culture that we have developed here. Each and every Saturday we expect to win, whether it’s Kansas Stat or whoever. I think the younger guys really caught onto that and we always expect to win and that has helped with recruiting and things like that. This program had a lot of success before we were here with a 10-1 record and then we had a down fall to 6-5 and 3-8. I think the guys that went through that my redshirt year that were seniors went through those 10-1 seasons. I think that was a big deal to them showing us how to win and then we went to the quarterfinals that one season and went from there.”

BI: Tell us more about being a walk-on. What makes it different than being on scholarship besides the obvious reason?

DL: “It’s never been easy. As a walk on you’re just trying to find your role. I played a lot on special teams, I started on every special teams unit so it started out just finding a role that would fit me personally and finding a way onto the field and making plays.”

BI: Who helped you develop into that role?

DL: “I would say it was two guys. Two guys were DJ McNorton and Matt Voiltlander and they were always their when I had questions and encouraged me when I was a walk-on to keep fighting through it. I know that’s a big thing for me know with Matt and DJ showing me that aspect. I do it with John now. Helping him with anything he needs whether it’s with the play calls or where here he goes and this and that.

BI: Talk about the Bison culture that is engraved in the football team.

DL: “It’s definitely a culture that has been built and will continue. I would say the biggest thing is the family aspect of going through the conditioning and I think everyone who goes through college football at one point thinks ‘I’m not really sure this is for me.’ It’s not easy. There’s a lot of lifting and a huge time commitment. So I think just the fact that you can always lean on your teammates and you never want to give up on them. You go through the conditioning and the lifting together and it’s a family and it goes back to the relationships that I was talking about before. These are friends that I will have forever.”

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