Photo By Paul Flessland
Former North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman is now the head honcho at Kansas State University after a phenomenal run in Fargo.
After the news broke that Klieman was named head coach at K-State, I caught up with former free safety Tre’ Dempsey to discuss what Klieman meant to North Dakota State, what kind of person K-State is getting, what’s next for the Bison and much more.
Dempsey had no shortage of accolades in his time as a Bison. He made 44 consecutive starts at free safety over his final three seasons, was a two-time FCS All-America first team pick by the American Football Coaches Association, was tied for second in NDSU history with 16 career interceptions and finished fifth with 42 career passes defended.
And the thing he’d tell you he’s most proud of: he was part of five Missouri Valley Football Conference championship teams and four NCAA national championships.
Now, the interview…
Tre’, you were part of three national championships with Klieman. How would you describe your experience playing under him at NDSU?
“Great question, Dan. I was actually a part of four championships with Klieman – three with him as head coach and one as defensive coordinator – where he coached the defensive backs before he became head coach. My freshman year, I redshirted – he was my guy. Taught me the game in extreme detail and held me accountable for all my actions, good and bad, which helped me become a man. I respect Coach Klieman so much as a person, coach and father figure.
How much did Klieman help your development as a defensive back?
Klieman helped my career tremendously. When I watched film with him, I was paying so much more attention to the details. And those small details added up and took me from a good young, raw player to a great disciplined, mature player and leader.
During your college career, you dealt with a coaching change after Craig Bohl left for Wyoming in 2013. That was a momentous time period for NDSU football, but one that the Bison drove through thanks to the leadership of Klieman. How confident are you that NDSU can overcome another coaching change and continue to thrive?
When Coach Bohl left in 2013, I was just a youngin’ in the program and didn’t even know what it meant to be a Bison. But through that experience, I learned that the culture we have at NDSU was created before I was even born. I talk to the older guys, and the same discussions I have with my teammates, I have with them – even though they are sometimes 40 years older than me. NDSU will be fine. We’ve been working hard here for centuries now and won’t stop because we lost a great coach.
What do you have to say to those who question whether Klieman can make the jump from the FCS level to a Power 5 FBS program?
Well, I’d tell people who don’t think he can coach Power 5 to check his resume. Whether he was the defensive coordinator or head coach, every time he’s played a Power 5 at NDSU, he’s won. And after that, I’d say that the guy is just a football genius. I’ve witnessed him outsmart many coaches, and I’ve seen some of the schemes coaches run at Power 5 schools, and some of them are garbage; their athletes save them half the time from looking stupid. So when you give him these Power 5 athletes with his knowledge of the game, watch out.
If you were speaking to Kansas State fans, how would you describe the coach they’re getting?
K-State is getting a hard-working coach who hates to lose more than he loves to win. Everybody can’t understand that, but winners do, and that’s what Klieman is. He is a great man off the field and a good person at heart. He’s genuinely a good person and wants to help players become great as much as he can. Just a natural born leader.
One final question, Tre’. Personally, what kind of effect did Klieman have on your life?
Klieman was a second father figure in my life. I call his kids “my brothers” and his wife “mom.” He helped me become a man along with the Bison, and that’s something I’ll always respect him for. He also gave me the knowledge I needed to become a playmaker and All-American. If he ever called me needing anything, I’d do it. No questions asked.