North Dakota State’s Lechler feels at home
FARGO — The Fargodome played host to a rodeo last week and a circus this weekend. Those events and the animals that go with them are probably more at home to some players on the North Dakota State football team than others.
Sophomore Landon Lechler, for instance, grew up on a farm five miles north of Beach. It wasn’t quite in Montana, but he could practically see it from there.
The operation consisted of sheep, cows, wheat, corn and barley. So when he went searching for his best college fit, NDSU’s agricultural excellence looked quite appealing.
On the flip side, Lechler’s 6-foot-7 frame and basketball mobility looked quite appealing to the Bison. The marriage is starting to pay off. When he got to NDSU in the fall of 2012, Lechler weighed 250 pounds.
He’s now 300 and listed as the top guy on the depth chart at right tackle.
“It smells like home here,” Lechler said. “And just the history of the program, too. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings and watching the Bison play. We only had four channels back at home. Before Dish (Network), cable was four channels and the Bison game was about the only thing on.”
Lechler spent last year as a backup left tackle to one of the best offensive lineman to ever play at NDSU: Billy Turner. With starting right tackle Joe Haeg moving to the left side to replace Turner, Lechler for the first time in his football life moved to the right side of an offensive line.
There’s still a ways to go before he’s the rock solid starter, said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. He said the coaches still need to see how Lechler handles the position through the remaining spring practices.
“Landon definitely athletically can get the job done,” said offensive coordinator Tim Polasek. “It’s the details of the trade. He seems to be really on top of assignment football, so from that standpoint, it’s really good. It’s just clearing up the details that will allow him to be physical.”
Nobody knows that better than Lechler, who said daily film study is a necessity. Put it this way: It’s a long way from North Dakota 9-man football at Beach.
“If you’re out there, they’ll find you,” Lechler said. “You just have to work your tail off. People think you’re not exposed enough, but I think if you put in the hard work that they’ll find you.”
NDSU has made a living off of finding small-town players who haven’t had the coaching or the resources to reach their potential or play multiple sports and haven’t put the time into football.
“That’s what you’re looking for because that kid has all the upside in the world,” Polasek said. “I think it’s so interesting. A lot of these kids out in western North Dakota, you put them in the middle of Illinois or in Chicago, they may be Big Ten-type of kids. Those bodies that can move are just rare to find.”
Lechler reached 275 last fall. The extra 25 came in winter conditioning.
“This year it’s kind of our time to shine,” he said. “It’s the younger guys’ time to step up and see what we’re made of.”