Editors Note: Here’s part four 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
Like many star high school football players in North Dakota, deciding which in-state school can be a difficult decision. Just ask junior linebacker MJ Stumpf.
Stumpf was a first-team all-state quarterback for Class A’s Harvey-Wells County High School and was selected to play in the biggest all-star games the state had to offer: the Badlands Bowl and the Shrine All-Star game. Harvey-Wells County complied a 22-6 record with Stumpf playing quarterback and safety.
Before Stumpf’s immaculate senior season at Harvey-Wells, Craig Bohl took notice of Stumpf’s talent and offered him an invitation to the summer Bison football camp. After his performance during the week of drills and competition, the recruiting attention picked up for Stumpf and suddenly UND and NDSU were both in contention of landing the North Dakota high school star.
Stumpf’s father, Michael Stumpf, attended NDSU for a semester and has grown close to individuals close to the NDSU football program.
“He’s really into the program and has always been about it,” MJ Stumpf said. “So we were NDSU fans. And he was swinging one way, too.”
Stumpf said his father was going to support the decision he made no matter what, but one of his teammates at Harvey-Wells thought they were going to pick a school together.
UND tight end Tucker Nordby had the intention of signing with his high school teammate Stumpf, but Nordby was taken by surprise when Stumpf made his verbal commitment to NDSU during the fall of their senior season without consulting with his teammate.
“I told him I had to do what I had to do, but he understood,” Stumpf said. “We look back and laugh at it now.”
Stumpf made his unofficial commitment to NDSU Nov. 2 and the following week he came to Fargo for his official visit. The Bison was smart about this. To maximize Stumpf’s comfortability, they picked linebacker and fellow small-town kid Travis Beck as Stumpf’s host.
“I’m a small school kid so I didn’t know what the heck to think,” Stumpf said. “But then I got here and they were all really cool and they took care of me. I spent most of my time with him (Beck) and (Kyle) Emanuel so it was pretty cool.”
Although the Bison would lose to Youngstown State during Stumpf’s visit, he was convinced NDSU was the place for him to spend his college career.
Stumpf is now closer than ever to cracking a spot in the starting lineup next season and is also pursuing his degree in natural resource management.