Former Bison players showing team support in personFRISCO, Texas — They came together at the end of practice, the current North Dakota State players on one side and over 100 former players on the other. “You got the goose bumps,” said Bison assistant coach Tyler Roehl, a former player.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FRISCO, Texas — They came together at the end of practice, the current North Dakota State players on one side and over 100 former players on the other.
“You got the goose bumps,” said Bison assistant coach Tyler Roehl, a former player.
In the middle was head coach Craig Bohl, who addressed both groups. He thanked the alums for making the effort to be at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game, which kicks off at noon today at FC Dallas Stadium.
The one class, the only class, to be part of all five years of the Division I reclassification will be there almost in its entirety, thanks in part to a fundraising effort by a group of 26 former players and boosters spearheaded by Phil Hansen.
Most of the 13 players who were freshmen in 2003 will get most of their expenses like travel and hotel paid for this weekend.
“You look at all these guys out here,” said Chad Pundsack, while surveying a throng of former players of all ages. “The reason I came to North Dakota State was to be in the playoffs and have a chance at a national championship. This is a way to thank them for their time in doing what they did.”
What they did is play four years without the opportunity for the playoffs. The players include the likes of quarterback Steve Walker, defensive tackle Justin Frick, punter Mike Dragosavich and offensive lineman Jerrod Wagner and included junior college transfers Christian Dallas and Mike Brown.
“It just seemed appropriate that they should be able to celebrate in this FCS championship,” Hansen said.
That thought was not lost on the Bison players.
“They all led us to this opportunity,” said Bison linebacker Preston Evans. “All the guys before — their blood, their sweat and their tears — that have gone into this is big. It’s not just for us. It’s for those past Bison that have come before us.”
Said offensive guard Paul Cornick: “You learn right away the tradition here is large and you’re playing for everybody who has put the uniform on. Everything we accomplish can all be traced back to the efforts of everybody before us. We’re doing it for them, too.”
The throng of Bison fans who watched the open Friday practice numbered several hundred. They lined the fence on the east side of the practice field adjacent to FC Dallas Stadium.
Team Makers executive director Pat Simmers arranged a bus to pick up the former players at various locations in Frisco and the neighboring suburb of Plano. He made note of “friends of the program” who raised the funds for the 11 transition players.
Current Denver Broncos linebacker Joe Mays could not make it because of the NFL playoffs.
Naturally, Walker, the quarterback, was given the job of handling all the details of the 13 players, including Dallas and Brown.
“It was unbelievable that they did this for us,” Walker said.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.