JAMESTOWN -- The Fighting Sioux nickname has no doubt been a loud issue in the NCAA, but it has also resonated into the National Football League.
Minnesota Vikings tight end and former University of North Dakota standout Jim Kleinsasser has been keeping up with the ongoing debate that has been swirling around the campus he once roamed, and though he was always proud of the nickname, the 1998 team captain stated that it might be time to turn the page.
"It's sad to see it go and I wish it wasn't," said Kleinsasser regarding his alma mater's nickname. "But if it's going to keep us out of the Big Sky, then we just have to move on and go with it."
A law was passed this spring by the state legislature that forced the school to retain the nickname, but the NCAA opposes the nickname and logo, deeming it hostile to Native Americans. A meeting between UND and NCAA officials was scheduled for July 18 to further discuss the issue, but the meeting was postponed because of the death of North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenhjem. The meeting will now be held Friday in Indianapolis.
"I've always thought of the Sioux nickname as a proud symbol," said Kleinsasser. "I've always had nothing but respect when looking back to when I was playing football."
Kleinsasser is entering his 13th year with the Vikings, but before being drafted in the second round by Minnesota, he was tearing up the turf at Memorial Stadium -- UND's former field.
The Carrington High School graduate finished his four-year career at UND in the top 10 in both receiving yards and touchdowns. He was selected to the All-North Central Conference team three times and earned All-American honors in 1997 and 1998.
"My sister (Sheri) went to UND, so it felt natural going there," said the ND Sports Hall of Fame inductee. "I knew the coaching staff and everybody at UND, so it was such a good fit. My family was close, so having that support system right there helps quite a bit."
Kleinsasser emerged to be one of the top collegiate tight ends in the country and was named a starter in the Senior Bowl, which is composed of some of the top seniors in the NCAA. He then went on to continue his career at the professional ranks on his favorite childhood team.
"You always dream about it," said Kleinsasser of playing professional football. "You just have to work hard and do what you can do."
David Griswold is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun, which is owned by Forum Communications, Co.