Football

The Senior Roundtable

We sit down with Luke Bacon, Tanner Volson, Dallas Freeman, Stanley Jones and Levi Jordheim to reflect on their time at North Dakota State.

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Photo By Hillary Ehlen

MEET THE GUYS

 

#94 Stanley Jones
Defensive End
Hometown: Bismarck, N.D.
Had a forced and recovered fumble in the national championship game.

#45 Levi Jordheim
Linebacker
Hometown: Dickinson, N.D.
Logged his first career interception in the national championship game.

#74 Tanner Volson
Center
Hometown: Balfour, N.D.
Won the Rimington Award, given to the best center in FCS.

#83 Dallas Freeman
Wide receiver
Hometown: St. Michael, Minn.
Had three receptions in the national championship game

#71 Luke Bacon
Offensive guard
Hometown: Granville, N.D.
Started all 15 games at offensive guard this season for the Bison.

THE ROUNDTABLE

After winning the national championship and leaving NDSU on top, what were some of your emotions in Frisco and now as well?

Jones: You couldn’t paint a better picture. Coach Klieman leaving and had a whole new staff coming in and us being seniors, finishing the season perfect, winning the championship. It’s a perfect way to go out.

Freeman: You have us all come in during the same summer with the same coaching staff we played with our whole five years. Knowing that we all came in together and leaving together on top, I think every one of us knows that it’s an unreal feeling and it doesn’t feel real. Especially being in the program that’s so successful as ours and being in the senior class that ends up on top, it’s an incredible feeling.

How much pride do you take in being from this area (North Dakota-Minnesota) and playing for NDSU?

Bacon: We’re the “professional” team here. North Dakotans, South Dakota, we don’t have a professional team, and I think a lot of fans treat us as that or close to it. Every game, every sporting event that we have here, fans flock to. We have unbelievable fan support from the state of North Dakota and Minnesota, too. To be able to represent this area of the country and do it successfully is a pretty neat deal.

Volson: Being from North Dakota and playing at NDSU so that when we go and have a great season like last year and win the championship, it’s not just for the university. It’s for the whole state, I feel like. All the fans come down and everything, and it’s just a prideful thing for the whole state.

Jordheim: It’s cool because I think it gives some younger people hope. When I was younger, I looked up to Nate Moody. He’s from Dickinson, North Dakota, a walk-on. I thought if he could do it, I could, too. That’s a big part of giving kids the goal of it’s not just big-time recruits that come here, we get small-town kids that can be impactful at this level.

If you had to pick a few words, how would you best define this program?

Jones: Bison Pride. I mean, we’ve had a lot of quotes, a lot of sayings our whole careers, but I think the one that has stuck through has been Bison Pride. What’s cool about that is that it’s stuck with guys way back in the 60s. Those guys seeing us in Frisco when we have that alumni day and all those guys, you can tell they have a ton of Bison Pride and they still wear it on their shirts.

Jordheim: I’d say culture and consistency. A lot of programs have a culture, but North Dakota State has a great culture, a great tradition. To be able to do things consistently year after year, decades after decades, it’s really special.

Volson: I’d have to agree with Levi, it’s just a culture of having to put your work in. Whatever work you put in is what you’ll get out of it in the end. The harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed.

How do you define Bison Pride?

Jones: It’s tough to define for someone who hasn’t been through NDSU. I think it’s just that brotherhood between everybody. There’s a saying in our locker room that you can’t describe Bison Pride, you can’t really put it into words, it’s just a feeling people have, that teammates share.

Bacon: Coach Klieman brought in former players to speak with us. We had Ryan Smith come in who played a few years ago to guys who played in the 80s and 90s and earlier than that. They all come in with a different definition, but like Stan said, it’s a feeling you have playing with your brothers and for your brothers. Playing for that guy that wore your number years ago that’s now watching you on TV or in the stands. We play for all those guys, and it’s just something you feel.

Lasting impressions left by Coach Klieman?

Jones: I think the coolest thing was whenever Coach Klieman would talk about the team or people asked him questions about himself or about players, it was never an individual thing. It was always a “we” and never “this is my team,” but “this is our team.” That’s just a good life lesson to take. It’s never really about an individual, it’s about a collective group and I think that’s what makes him being here and leaving the way he did real special. You could see the outpouring of support, and I think people really realized how much he cared about everybody.

Jordheim: To go off that, he made sure that football was important, but family came first. That’s where a lot of what Stan said comes full circle, that there’s more to life than football. Just leaning on your teammates and your family, parents, brothers and sisters. When it comes down to it, that’s the most important thing.

What will you miss most about being in this program or even being on campus?

Freeman: I just think the family aspect that everyone brings and all the players. You’re with the same guys for five years for your entire life every single day and the coaching staff. They almost turn into your brothers and your family. Now that you’re out of football, you don’t see each other every day. You don’t have that same look of ‘well, he did the weight room first earlier this morning, let’s ask him what he thinks of this so I can prepare.’ You don’t have that face of wanting to get something with the guy next to you. I think the feeling that a player is not going to walk by and you’re going to have that same grit and passion for the game that you have on the same team.

Volson: The things I’m going to miss are the little things that nobody else gets to see, like some of the small locker room stuff. Some of the small bits in the game with other players that nobody else will ever know about or even care about probably. It’s just a memory that stuck with me through all the games, just those small little bits of stuff that make all the memories.

Bacon: I’ll miss trash talking on Saturdays, I’m not going to lie. That’ll be one of the things I’m going to miss, you know, cussing somebody out and all those other things I used to do. Like Tanner said with the small things, one of the greatest accomplishments is getting done with a really tough lift or a really tough run and just kind of sitting down and talking to your guys about how you did it and you overcame how tough it was. Asking if we weighed in that day, so we could go to the dining center and get our weight right for coach Kramer. Those are little things that jump out to me when you ask that question.

What do you want this 2018 senior class to be remembered for?

Jones: At the beginning of the year, we sat down at coach Klieman’s house as seniors and we created goals for our team. One of them was to be the best team to ever play at NDSU. Whether we were or we weren’t, I can’t say. Each team was different, how are we going to compare ourselves to the team that won way back in the 80s or 90s?

Jordheim: Just the resilience of everyone, collectively. I think the fact that we leaned on each other when we needed to in tough times. When the offense wasn’t clicking, the defense would pick it up. When the defense wasn’t clicking, the offense would pick it up. If those two phases were struggling, special teams would take over. The ability of each phase of the game to lean on each other was pretty cool.

Bacon: Like Levi said, you can go through each of our games this year and find certain moments where the defense didn’t look good, moments where the offense looked horrible, things like that. Somehow, someway, we got through those games and were able to go undefeated. We leaned on each other, and that’s something I think that Bison fans don’t even know is how much we came off the field as an offense and the defense would say “we got you guys, we’ll get the ball back for you and you’ll score.” Those little things like that were so impactful to us and it’s something Bison fans would never know.

The Senior Roundtable
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