Sign, sealed, deliveredThe decision made by two athletes from the area takes them on different walks of life, both ending up on football field.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
The decision made by two athletes from the area takes them on different walks of life, both ending up on football field.
Killdeer’s Grady Houghton and Mott-Regent’s Tanner Vesledahl each signed their national letters intent on Wednesday to play college football next fall.
Houghton, who tore the ACL in his knee during his senior football season, has committed to play linebacker for the University of Mary. Vesledahl accepted a preferred walk-on offer from the University of North Dakota.
“The recruiting staff is really good and I like how they run things over there,” Houghton said. “I’ve got friends over there and I like the town of Bismarck.”
The 6-foot-2 senior captain had 45 carries for 292 yards and seven touchdowns. Though he was the Cowboys main rushers, his linebacker skills are what got him to play for the Marauders this fall.
“I prefer the defensive side of the ball,” Houghton said.
Another school that showed interest in Houghton was Dickinson State. Despite both of his parents being DSU alumni, Houghton thought it was took close to home.
“I just kind of want to get away a little bit,” Houghton said.
However, his parents aren’t holding it against him to become a Marauder.
“They are very, very supportive,” Houghton said. “They support me fully going to the U-Mary.”
Recovering from his injury is the first thing on Houghton’s mind and Killdeer head coach Lou Dobitz said it shouldn’t be problem for Houghton to get back on the field.
“He’s got the speed and size that he needs to play at that level,” Dobitz said. “He’s also a hard worker and he’s a great guy that learns a lot from his coaches.”
There have been other players from the Dickinson area that have excelled at U-Mary in recent years. Most notably is Dickinson High School graduate Tyler Steffan, who received NCAA Division II All-America honors this season.
“It’s good to know that they are successful there,” Houghton said. “It’s always easier going to play for a successful team.”
Houghton said he’s not sure if he will redshirt his first season at U-Mary but said it is likely. He plans to major in business.
Vesledahl walking on at the University of North Dakota
Vesledahl didn’t plan on playing college football, but everything fell into place at the right time.
Vesledahl helped lead the deadly passing attack of the Mott-Regent Wildfire and will take those abilities to UND, which enters its first season in the Big Sky Conference next fall.
“The main reason (that I’m going to UND) is that they have petroleum engineering program and that’s what really drove me to them,” Vesledahl said. “That’s was pretty much the main reason.”
Vesledahl caught 42 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 48 carries for 183 yards and three touchdowns. The two aspects should bode well for Vesledahl as UND listed him as a tight end and fullback when releasing their list of recruits Wednesday.
“He is versatile,” Mott-Regent head coach Ron Benson said. “He’s got great hands. He can run with the ball, he’s got good quickness and good blocker capabilities. That’s what Division I (teams) expect out of their recruits.”
The 6-3, 207-pound senior plans to redshirt his first season because making the transition from 9-man to Division I football will take some to get used to. Plus, joining the Big Sky Conference is going to be a new experience for everyone on the team.
“I originally wanted to go to Montana to be a toxicologist, but I decided to change that,” Vesledahl said. “Now we get to play them and I’m looking forward to that.”
Being a Division I athlete is something Vesledahl has wanted since he was young.
“I’ve worked pretty hard to get here and be able to play is going to be my next goal,” he said. “I’ll keep working toward that.”
Vesledahl said joining the team as a walk-on is something that was completely fine with him. He didn’t even have to worry about an athletic scholarship because his military duty — he is a member of the North Dakota National Guard — and academics take care of his financial aid.
“I’m actually supposed to be a scholarship player, but (did not) since the budget this year was kind of small for them and I’m in the military,” he said. “I get guard benefits and tuition assistance. They were able to have me as a preferred walk-on rather than actually signing me.”
Though UND has listed Vesledahl as a tight end and fullback, he said he’s fine just blocking for the quarterback and running back in the backfield.
“I’d like to play a little more fullback than tight end, because I like to hit people,” Vesledahl said. “I love it when linebackers blitz.”