Nack of perseverance: North Dakota State offensive senior lineman never gives up
FARGO — The first order of business for Andrew Nack coming out of high school in small-town Osakis, Minn., was figuring out which college fit him best academically. It was a tough choice, but he picked North Dakota State because of its engineering program and campus atmosphere.
With that done, it was on to the secondary decision: Should he try and walk on to the football team?
He was the biggest offensive lineman in the Prairie Conference, although college football coaches weren’t exactly beating down his door. One of the first things to do in NDSU fall practice was to step on the scale.
Nack weighed 245 pounds. The next player to do so was Lee Vandal, who also weighed 245 pounds.
“But he plays fullback,” Nack said. “It was a humbling shock.”
Yet, Nack was not deterred from trying to make the team. He forged on as a redshirt on the scout team. It was the same thing the following year, a task that not many second-year players do — or are willing to do.
This afternoon, a few minutes before the Bison take on South Dakota at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, 24 seniors will be recognized for their Bison football careers, and you will know almost all of them. Several of them are star players who have been interviewed by media outlets across the country. A few of them are All-Americans.
Nine of them have scored at least one touchdown. Almost all of them have made a game-changing play of some sort over the last four years.
But nobody has stuck it out with little to no fanfare like Andrew Nack.
“He’s truly loved the program and always wanted to be part of something bigger than himself,” said offensive line coach Scott Fuchs. “That’s a special kind of person to me.”
Fuchs, a former Bison player, has a fond history with players like Nack. One of his best friends and teammates, Dan Michael from Ogilvie, Minn., walked on and stuck it out five years without any star power.
Now 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, Nack has traveled with the team in every game this season and has played some. He can play every position on the offensive line, which carries value, especially in emergency situations.
He’s the “I’ll-do-whatever-is-asked” guy.
“It’s guys like that who make the team better,” said starting nose guard Leevon Perry.
He perhaps is more important to the team during the week than on Saturdays. That realization came early in his career when former Bison defensive tackle Matt Gratzek always picked Nack as the scout-team offensive lineman to work with.
“That kind of made me feel special knowing this great star player wanted to work with me,” Nack said. “It kind of showed the role I played, and that got more solidified the next year.”
That’s when, as a sophomore, he started running plays with the No. 2 offense. After one practice, Nack said one of the defensive coaches came up to him and said he misses him on the scout team.
That was a tribute to his work ethic.
“The little things like that you don’t hear all the time,” Nack said. “But when you hear them, they’re really appreciated. Everyone has their role on the team. A second-team guy like myself, you have to prepare like you’re going to play because anything can happen in the game of football.”
Don’t be feeling sorry for him, however, because he hasn’t played a lot. Nack said he would not change his last five years for the world.
He said friends back home have asked him over the years why he’s still playing.
“I’ve learned so much about myself going through all this experience that I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.
And, oh by the way, he has two FCS national championship rings. Fuchs said he’s been a great example to younger players on the benefits of staying with the program.
“He’s had a lot of wins, and whether he got in each game I think will be irrelevant five or 10 years from now,” Fuchs said. “The fact is, he was on the team and was part of a family.”