By Steph Stanislao and Andrew Jason
Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography
Hometown: Cavalier, ND
Played for NDSU: 2000-2004
Position Played: Offensive Lineman
(2017 Update: Hunt enters the 2017 season as the MSUM defensive coordinator.)
Hometown: Cavalier, ND
Played for NDSU: 1997-2001
Position Played: Quarterback/Strong Safety
(2017 Update: Laqua will enter his seventh season as head coach at MSUM.)
Hometown: Velva, ND
Played for NDSU: 2005-2009
Position Played: Linebacker
(2017 Update: Kittelson is in his second year at Nedrose public school teaching middle school social studies. He coaches varsity football, wrestling and track.)
Hometown: New Franken, WI
Played for NDSU: 2004-2008
Position Played: Defensive End
(2017 Update: Lardinois enters this fall at Concordia-St. Paul as the defensive line and special teams coach. He’s also the recruiting coordinator.)
From playing a good ole game of pigskin and dawning green and gold to coaching for the red and black at Minnesota State University Moorhead, these four former Bison football players have made their mark at NDSU and are just starting to leave their legacy over the river.
Steve Laqua, Rob Hunt, Matt Kittelson and Joe Lardinois have taken the winning traditions they were taught during their time on the NDSU football team and are beginning to apply the Bison mindset to the players that they are working to mold into champions.
Although MSUM is a smaller school and the Dragon football program is in Division II, the goals of the coaching staff are much the same as that of the coaches at NDSU. Most of the coaching staff have played under or have been influenced by former Bison coaches Casey “Gus” Bradley, Todd Wash and Bob Babich, and current head coach Craig Bohl.
“Our philosophy and our vision is pretty much all the same,” Kittelson said. “We all played at NDSU and we all have that goal to be better on the field and off the field. That’s where we want our kids at. We’re trying to change that as a football program and to change them as student-athletes. We’re trying to take that philosophy from what we learned at NDSU and trying to revamp it and make it our own.”
Not only were these coaches influenced by their time as NDSU players, some were inspired from their time as members of the NDSU coaching staff. Laqua spent a period of time as an assistant coach with the Bison, and he explained what he has taken from NDSU.
“The experiences that I had there as a player and a coach have certainly shaped how I do things, and it’s certainly shaped how we do things here in Moorhead,” Laqua said.
Besides having a bond through NDSU, this coaching staff also considers themselves to be a family.
“We’re pretty close,” chuckled Hunt. “I played with Steve (Laqua), the head coach, and I played with Joe (Lardinois). I actually recruited Joe. I was his recruiting host when he came in. Family wise too–Steve’s actually my brother-in-law. When we say it’s family over here, it truly is family. We have that same connection NDSU has that preaches family, but once you get everyone together we’re truly one as a unit.
“We know each other, we’ve played with each other,” Hunt continued. “Steve and I actually played high school football together. We’ve been around and have known each other for half my life.”
Although most know that the Dragon football program is around, most don’t know what Dragon football is about. With a great Division I program at NDSU across the river in Fargo, MSUM, under new leadership, has the opportunity to grow into a spectacular Division II program.
“It’s a program that’s building. It’s a program that’s on the rise,” Laqua said. “It’s something where, in order to be a winner, you have to do the things that winners do. And those are the things that we’ve started to put in place.”
For more information on how to continue the success of these MSUM Coaches or to learn more about the Dragons, you can go to their website, msumdragons.com.
Laqua and the other boys at MSUM believe that Fargo-Moorhead deserves to have successful D2 football, like NDSU in the 1980s and 90s. They believe that the Fargo-Moorhead area is big enough to support a successful D1 and D2 program.
They are out to bring success to the Dragons, but they have a tough road ahead of them. Because of budget restrictions, they are unable to offer the same number of scholarships as the schools in their conference.
These challenges are familiar for head coach Laqua. But he won’t let that stop him and his staff of former Bison from building the D2 power the FM area deserves.