NDSU RB McNorton plans to honor his late mother in final gameFRISCO, Texas — D.J. McNorton got his college degree in December from North Dakota State, fulfilling a goal that he set as a freshman recruit from Channelview, Texas. That must have made his mother proud.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FRISCO, Texas — D.J. McNorton got his college degree in December from North Dakota State, fulfilling a goal that he set as a freshman recruit from Channelview, Texas. That must have made his mother proud.
But not all of his collegiate business is finished. He has one more football game to play Saturday when the Bison take on Sam Houston State (Texas) for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title. It will be the 50th game of McNorton’s career.
Tonya McNorton, his mother, saw only one: a 2009 loss at, of all places, Sam Houston State, located a few hours from home.
“It was big for her to be there, and I feel that,” D.J. said. “We lost that game and now I have a chance to make up for it. That feels really good.”
Tonya McNorton passed away in July of 2010 after a bout with cancer. On Saturday morning, before the Bison take the FC Dallas Stadium field, D.J. will go through his rituals that will forever remain private, but certainly they include his mother.
She may have only seen one of his college games, but it seems to him like she’s seen more. Many more.
“D.J. is a sensitive guy,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “He doesn’t talk a lot, but he and his mom were really close. It’s his last game but also the fact he’s playing in his home state is a big deal and I’m sure he thinks his mom is looking down on him.”
D.J. got his degree in university studies with an emphasis in sports management, communication and human development. He’s not sure of his post-college plans, but it appears he’s going to give professional football a shot. When asked what his thoughts could be later Saturday, after the game, he said it was hard to think about that.
“I do know I’m going to miss all of this,” he said.
It was 63 degrees and sunny on Thursday when the Bison finished practice at a field adjacent to FC Dallas Stadium. D.J. said it felt like home, but he also noted the record-high temperature in Fargo.
“No clouds in the sky, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said.
McNorton’s career had its share of stormy days. He was a backup his first two seasons and even spent some time at linebacker and wide receiver when the Bison were desperate for depth.
He treated each position switch like a good soldier.
Moreover, that was a time that he had to endure his mother’s illness while attending college 1,300 miles away. He kept it to himself, rarely talked to teammates but has since accepted it.
“I’ve been able to cope with it, I’ve grown up with it and it was a learning experience for me,” D.J. said.
Thanks to help from his Bison teammates, he was able to get 17 tickets for friends and family for Saturday’s game. His sister will be there. His high school coach will be there.
So will his mother.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.