Editors Note: Here’s part two of our four-part Signing for the Future series featured in the March issue of Bison Illustrated.
The summer camps, the extra reps in the weight room and the additional conditioning has led thousands of promising football players to this day; a day they will forever remember called Signing Day. Whether they’re in front of a gymnasium with their family and classmates cheering them on or in their counselor’s office before class, once a high school student signs his National Letter of Intent, his future is set. But for some, the road to playing college football has more bends and twists than the Red River. Here are four stories of recruits turned Bison football players and their paths that led them to the green and gold.
By Joe Kerlin
Saved Through The Cracks
In an era of countless college recruiting services, summer recruiting camps across every state and nationally televised Signing Day specials, it’s hard to believe an athlete with the size and speed of Bison safety Chris Board would fall through the cracks.
But that’s exactly how Timber Creek High School head football coach James Buckridge would explain the path Board almost fell into during his senior year.
Board transferred to Timber Creek his senior year from East River High School just down the road in Orlando, Fla. Buckridge said Board was frustrated with the lack of playing time his junior year and how his skills were going unnoticed as a tight end.
Before summer camp opened, Board went to Buckridge and explained his desire to play defense. Buckridge said he saw Board as a perfect fit at outside linebacker, but Board thought his skill set was best utilized at the safety position.
“Your biggest concern is usually if the kid can tackle or not,” Buckridge said. “But from the first practice we knew we had a pretty special player.”
The moment that ensured Buckridge he had a great safety was during one of the first days of full contact drills. Timber Creek had a stud running back. He was a sophomore named Jacques Patrick and the nation’s largest recruiting services had been following him since his freshman year.
“Chris met him in the hole and they went smacking into each other, shoulder pad to shoulder pad,” Buckridge recalled. “Chris sent him straight to the ground and any doubt we had was gone.”
Patrick signed with Florida State this February as the 42nd-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300. He also had offers from University of Alabama, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
Board’s senior season came and went, but he only had a handful of offers from smaller FCS schools like Furman University, Jacksonville State and Bethune-Cookman University.
A few weeks before signing day, Bison defensive ends coach AJ Cooper paid Timber Creek High School a visit, a school where NDSU had recruited before. Coach Buckridge gave Cooper the film of Board and immediately Cooper went to visit the athlete at his home.
The next week, head coach Craig Bohl came to visit.
“For him to travel all week and to come down to Florida that was – that meant a lot to me,” Board said. “It showed how much they wanted me and how much they wanted me to come here. I wanted to go somewhere where they wanted me to be there.”
Within a matter of two weeks, Board gave his verbal commitment to NDSU and a few weeks later he would sign his Letter of National Intent to continue his football and academic career in Fargo.
“We thought he was all set to go to Jacksonville State,” said Buckridge. “It was kind of like a shock at the time. But I’m really glad it worked out.”
With two national championships already under Board’s belt, Buckridge said he couldn’t be more proud of his former player he could talk all day about.
He explained how there are some players you don’t want to talk about, but then there are other players – like Board – that you love talking about, which makes his success that much sweeter for the Timber Creek head football coach.