NDSU's Willson a proven winner who is still looking for his 1st titleFARGO — A few of Youngstown State offensive players and a few North Dakota State defensive players ended up in a mass tackle near the NDSU bench. Making sure there were no further shenanigans, Bison head coach Craig Bohl helped pull players off the pile.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — A few of Youngstown State offensive players and a few North Dakota State defensive players ended up in a mass tackle near the NDSU bench. Making sure there were no further shenanigans, Bison head coach Craig Bohl helped pull players off the pile.
He started helping his senior linebacker, Chad Willson, off of the Fargodome turf when he got a glimpse at his face.
“His eyes were like that of a wild man,” Bohl said. “It was a scary look.”
It was an intense look, one that Willson brought to NDSU from Snow College (Utah) last season. He also brought something else: a winner’s resume.
“My path has been blessed with big games,” Willson said.
Another will come Saturday when the Bison play Sam Houston State (Texas) for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title. NDSU leaves for Frisco, Texas, this morning, another flight in Willson’s career that started as youth football player playing for his dad in Utah.
Craig Willson coached his son all the way up to high school.
“He lost three games in that period,” said Craig, who played at Southern Utah.
A couple defeats will probably stay with Chad. His Layton High School team lost in the 2007 Utah state championship game. One year later, second-ranked Snow lost in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship game to Butler Community College (Kan.) in double overtime.
Willson has one more chance to rectify the elusive title.
“Hopefully the third time’s a charm,” he said.
He perhaps has saved his best season for last. He leads NDSU in tackles with 88 and his tied for third in tackles for lost yardage with eight.
His fumble recovery in the semifinal game against Georgia Southern led to an NDSU touchdown and a lead it would never surrender. At 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds, he’s not the prototypical Division I linebacker and Bohl figures an NFL career is probably not in the cards.
“But I wouldn’t trade him for any NFL-type guy,” he said. “He’s one of those players who has maxed out on his ability. He has great instincts. Plus, he meshed in with the team very well and that’s not always an easy thing to do when you are a junior college transfer.”
He didn’t take long. He had 12 tackles in his first game with NDSU — a 6-3 win at Kansas. It’s been home ever since.
“Just pure hard work and just the team,” Willson said. “We’re all here for each other.”
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.